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Susan Mcintosh Lloyd 

A Singular School 

Abbot Academy, 1828-1973 

- V.» 1 

A Singular School 

Abbot Academy, 1828-1973 
by Susan Mcintosh Lloyd 

Abbot Academy of Andover, Massachu- 
setts, was one of the first educational in- 
stitutions in New England to be founded 
for girls and women alone and had by far 
the longest corporate life of any. It 
opened its doors to seventy students in 
1829 and endured until those same 
doors and all the material goods inside 
were entrusted to Phillips Academy in 
1973. Abbot's sesquicentennial history 
commands attention not only for what it 
says about American education and the 
history of American women but also be- 
cause it is a good tale worth the telling 
for its own sake. Many of the sources 
were scrapbooks, student notebooks, 
and journals, supplemented by sixty 
interviews, and letters from alumnae 
young and old. 

Susan Lloyd, Instructor in History and 
the Social Sciences and Residential Dean 
at Phillips Academy, writes with humor 
and compassion of the students, teach- 
ers, and trustees who were outstanding, 
and of the hundreds unsung, all of whose 
lives became a part of the life of the 

ISBN 0-87451-161-5 Printed in U.S.A. 

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A Singular School 

Susan Mcintosh Lloyd 

A Singular School 

Abbot Academy 1828-1973 


Published by Phillips Academy, Andover 

Distributed by the University Press of New England 

Hanover, New Hampshire 1979 

Frontispiece: Andover center and Andover Hill. Detail from a map drawn 
in 1830 showing the population center of the South parish. Andover 

Memorial Library. 

Copyright © 1979 by Trustees of Phillips Academy, Andover 

All rights reserved 

Library of Congress Catalogue Card Number: 78-56167 

International Standard Book Number: 0-8745 1-161-5 

Printed in the United States of America 

Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication data 
will be found on the last printed page of this book. 

The University Press of New England 

Brandeis University 

Clark University 

Dartmouth College 

University of New Hampshire 

University of Rhode Island 

University of Vermont 


This is the biography of a school: Abbot Academy of Andover, Mas- 
sachusetts. One of the first educational institutions in New England to 
be founded for girls and women alone, Abbot had by far the longest 
corporate life of any: it opened its doors to seventy students on May 
6, 1829, and endured until those same doors and all the material good 
inside them were entrusted to Phillips Academy on June 28, 1973. 

A legal mind must acknowledge Abbot Academy a thing of the past. 
But schools, being congregations of human beings, are always defying 
rigid definition. Like a bride from a proud and ancient family, Abbot 
brought to the new coeducational Phillips Academy a commitment to 
its own historic purposes and a stubborn loyalty to the character set 
during its 144 years of life. Thus for earnest, present reasons, Abbot's 
history commands attention. Earnestness aside, it is a plain good tale— 
or ought to be— worth the telling for its own sake, and for all it says of 
American education and of the history of American women. There is 
no way to do Abbot full justice. The school has encompassed thousands 
of lives, each with its own particular history; if all these lives were 
named and accounted for, this would be hot a book but an encyclo- 
pedia. A book must have characters, but not too many. Hundreds of 
teachers and trustees who did great work, hundreds of the mediocre 
ones too, will have to be assumed by the reader. Two appendices list 
all Abbot trustees since 1828, and all teachers, with their colleges and 
degrees, since 1936. In the text, however, a few students, teachers, and 
trustees must stand for the many who created and expressed Abbot's 
special character in each age. 

So many people have helped me with this research that they cannot 
all be named here. Alumnae recalled their experiences to me at every 
reunion and Abbot gathering I could attend; conversations on buses 
and planes often proved as fruitful as formal interviews. A number of 
Abbot's alumnae and friends wrote helpful letters in response to my re- 
quests for recollections, or lent me relevant papers they had written. 
To these correspondents I am most grateful: Bethiah Crane Accetta, 
'62; Harriet Murdock Andersson, '17; Dorothy Bigelow Arms, ' 1 1 ; John 


and Helen Barss; Louisa Lehmann Birch, '47; Helen Thiel Graven- 
gaard, '20; Gale Barton Hartch, '59; Cynthia Lund Heck, '71; Esther 
Kilton, '16; Maud Lavin, '72; Lucy Lippard, '54; Julie Owen, '61; 
Barbara Moore Pease, '12; Shirley Ritchie; Andrea Ruff, '70; Pamela 
Schwartz, Phillips, '75; Katherine Staples, '65; Joan List VanNess, '41; 
and Genevieve Young, '48. 

Other former students, faculty, trustees and townspeople gave time 
for interviews or long conversations; many of them also reviewed the 
sections of the manuscript to which they had contributed: Helen Allen 
(Henry) Anderson, '32; Carolyn Appen, Phillips '76; Mary Bertucio 
Arnold, '42; Germaine Arosa; Jane Baldwin, '22; Marie Baratte; Jean 
Bennett; Josephine and Alan Blackmer; John Buckey; Barbara Brown 
Hogan, '40; Eleanor Thomson Castle, '96; E. Barton Chapin, Jr.; Mel- 
ville Chapin; Constance Parker Chipman, '06; Susan Clark; Sally Cooper, 
'73; Mary Crane; Mary Carpenter Dake; William Doherty; James K. 
and Katherine Stirling Dow, '55; Arthur Drinkwater, Phillips '96; Susan 
Trafton Edmonds, '64; Elizabeth Fauver, 73; Marion Finbury; Louis 
Finger; Carolyn Goodwin; Donald Gordon; Jane Hoover, '76; Faith 
Howland; Carolyn Johnston; Abby Castle Kemper, '31; Valeria Knapp; 
Alexandra Kubler-Merrill, '56; Mildred Bryant Kussmaul, '13; Jennifer 
Martin, '71; Rennie McQuilkin; Mary Minard, '55; Ruth Newcomb, 
'io; Lia Pascale, Phillips '76; Stephen and Stephanie Perrin; Virginia 
Powel; Ruth Pringle, '05; Caroline Rogers; Jean St. Pierre, George and 
Frances Flagg Sanborn, '26; Richard Sheahan; Mary Byers Smith, '04; 
Nora Sweeney, '12; Alexina Wilkins Talmadge, '22; Elizabeth Marshall 
Thomas, '49; Evelyn Neumark; Sandra Urie Thorpe, '70; Eleanor 
Tucker; Catherine VonKlemperer, '73; Elaine Boutwell VonWeber, '25; 
Beth Chandler Warren, '55; Teresa Wasilewski, '71; and Anne Lise 

At various times in the past three years eight Phillips Academy stu- 
dents have served skillfully as research assistants for ten weeks or 
more: Daniel Aibel, Elizabeth Friese, Mary Jean Hu, Louise Kennedy, 
Peter Marvit, Constantine Prentakis, Isabel Schaff, and Judith Sizer. 
Charlotte Taylor and Angela Leech, secretaries of the South and West 
Parish Churches, found important records and documents for me, and 
gave me full use of them. Some special typists have helped with much 
more than typing: Rebecca King, Cynthia Stableford and Clare O'Con- 
nell Sullivan, '32; these three and Juliet Kellogg, Phillips Academy 
Archivist, have brought good cheer as well as expertise to the work. 
Arthur M. Gilbert of the Historical Society in Dorset, Vermont, 
searched for and found some helpful material on Samuel C. Jackson 


and his family. Adeline Wright and several other townspeople have 
described to me the Andover they have lived and worked in. 

The following gave of their time and knowledge in a variety of 
ways that have been crucial to the research, or to the writing or to 
both: Grace Baruch, James Mcintosh, Kathryn Kish Sklar, and Blair 
Stambaugh made valuable criticisms of the first six chapters and gave 
equally valuable encouragement. Theodore Sizer read much of the 
manuscript, and provided special help on the last chapter. Roger Mur- 
ray reviewed the chapter on the Depression, while J. K. Dow and 
Richard Griggs brought their financial expertise to bear on an array of 
more recent conundrums. Frederick Allis, Robert Lloyd, Millicent and 
Rustin Mcintosh, David Tyack, and Genevieve Young have read the 
entire manuscript and have contributed greatly to the visions and re- 
visions which make a book. 

Five people have given so much work and thought to the entire 
enterprise that without them the book would have been a far poorer 
story. Beverly Brooks Floe collaborated on much of the oral history 
research, accompanying me on many interviews and conducting several 
herself, bringing with her the interest and financial support which the 
Abbot Academy Association has offered from the very beginning, and 
tirelessly helping me over some high and difficult passes. Frances Con- 
nelly Dowd gave weeks of time to confirm virtually every reference, 
and put uncounted extra hours into compiling the index. Philip Allen, 
Marguerite Hearsey, and Alice Sweeney talked at length with me about 
the Abbot they knew, and reviewed every chapter. At some times they 
contested my interpretations, and at all times they generouslv granted 
me the freedom essential to a historian's task. 

Finally, I owe thanks to the Trustees of Phillips Academy for faith- 
fully supporting— and refusing to interfere with— a project consider- 
ably larger than the one they first bargained for. 

For all they have contributed to the book, none of these helpers and 
friends can in any way be held responsible for its faults. These are the 
author's special responsibility. 

A word about sources: The nineteenth-century Abbot is like a pic- 
ture puzzle with many pieces missing. So long as the gaps are small, 
one can recreate the design from the surrounding pieces, but there are 
great spaces without clues. No one, for example, can be certain what 
single person was most responsible for Abbot's founding. Rev. Samuel 
Jackson's diary might tell us— we know from his daughter's recollec- 
tions that he kept one— but in spite of a far search, it has not been 


found. Phebe McKeen's diary is also lost, as is much personal corre- 
spondence that might shed light on Abbot Academy. Self-effacing, 
perhaps, or simply wishing privacy, women often burn such things, or 
order their heirs to lock them up. There are no faculty meeting min- 
utes at all. There are, however, scrapbooks contributed by grand- 
daughters and great nieces, a few journals, student notebooks, and 
caches of alumnae letters found in musty closets. One such set of let- 
ters was written to Phebe McKeen in 1879 and drawn upon by her 
in compiling her and her sister's Annals of Abbot Academy, 1829-79. 
This volume, with its sequel written by Philena McKeen alone, is "A 
story told, not to the great, general public" but to "a dearer family 
circle."* Still, these books are eminently useful. There is fiction written 
by teachers and alumnae. There is all the more conventional (and in- 
valuable) archival material organized by Jane Brodie Carpenter, keeper 
of alumnae and school records from 19 10 to 1952, and author of many 
historical articles for the Alumnae Bulletin as well as of a book about 
Abbot and Miss Bailey, Miss Carpenter's contribution to the present 
volume cannot be measured. Two other helpful books are Katherine 
Kelsey's Abbot Academy Sketches (1892-19 12), and Alice Sweeney's 
Brief Account of the Hearsey Years. I have followed information found 
in all of the historical works back to original sources wherever pos- 
sible. Student publications, Trustees' Minutes from 1828 to 1973, and 
Principals' and Treasurers' reports after 191 5 have been essential to the 
research, even though Trustees' Minutes tend to be short on detail and 
devoid of debate and student periodicals were heavily censored for 
many decades. 

After 1895 nve witnesses come in, fleshing out the archival and liter- 
ary record. Many former faculty, trustees, and alumnae have gener- 
ously written or talked with me about the Abbot they knew. Each 
person's Abbot is unique, a vessel for her or his own concerns, but I 
have used recollections of people or events in this history wherever 
they can be corroborated by other sources. "Alumnae remember . . ." 
generally means that many people volunteered a recollection of some 
event of importance to them and to Abbot. "A few alumnae" remem- 
bering may be as few as three. Occasionally, a single person's recollec- 
tion is used (and identified as such) in situations where that one person 
is likely to have been the only one who could know of an incident. 
Jane Sullivan, Constance Strohecker, and the staff of the Abbot Alum- 

* Wesley Churchill, Sequel to the History of Abbot Academy (Andover, 
Warren Draper, 1897), xi. 


nae Office have been enormously helpful in providing student records 
and leads toward perceptive alumnae. I have also looked for and found 
several alumnae who were disappointed in Abbot, women who have, 
for the most part, refused to keep in touch with the school. Their 
memories must count too, for they represent a small, significant mi- 
nority in every era. Altogether, sixty people were formally interviewed. 

The last five years of Abbot's existence have been seen through a 
personal filter, since I taught history at the school from 1968 to 1973. 
This participant-observer stance has had both advantages and draw- 
backs. My effort in researching the period has been to find observa- 
tions and opinions supplementary to or contrary to my own, but in- 
evitably, an accounting of events so recent is bound to be more journal- 
ism than history. The best one can hope for here is responsible journal- 
ism. Especially for the modern period, I have found important material 
in confidential files, some lent by trustees or former principals, others 
available on a restricted basis from the Abbot and Phillips Academy 
Archives. I have drawn directly on none of these sources except where 
those involved have given their permission to do so. Within them often 
lay confirmation of facts gathered elsewhere, however, or clues as to 
where to look for more. 

Throughout this research I have been inspired and informed by 
books that help to establish the context of Abbot's story. Many of 
these are period pieces: nineteenth-century histories of the town of 
Andover (doubtless read by teachers and trustees of those times); in- 
spirational tracts; textbooks and novels read by Abbot girls; speeches, 
books, and articles written by educators and psychologists from 1826 
on. The American Journal of Education (1826-30) and The American 
Annals of Education and Instruction (1830-1839) are relevant if often 
verbose. Federal publications issued by the U.S. Bureau of Education 
(later, Office of Education) contain important statistics not available 
elsewhere, and written debates on a variety of pedagogical issues, es- 
pecially the U.S. Commissioner of Education Reports, and the Bulletins, 
beginning 1906. Thomas Woody 's History of Women's Education 
(1929) is invaluable because Woody so often prefers long excerpts 
from primary sources to short, pithy quotations. I have read several 
histories of schools and academies other than Abbot, have talked at 
length with retired and current principals of girls' schools, and have 
frequently used Sargent's Handbook of Private Schools as a reference 
work in comparing Abbot to institutions that serve a smilar clientele. 
Finally contemporary historians' writings on education, on cultural 
and social life, on the history of women, and on individual women 


educators have been eminently useful: works by Lawrence Cremin, 
Barbara Cross, Ann Douglas, Paula Fass, Edith Finch, Eleanor Flexner, 
Joseph Kett, Theodore Sizer, Kathryn Kish Sklar, and David Tyack 
are foremost here. 

Andover, Massachusetts S.M.L. 

July 1978 




PART I. EARLY DAYS, 1828-1852 

1 . Of Times, Town, and Founding Fathers 

2 9 
2. Pious Pioneers 

3. "A Very Liberal Series of Studies" 



4. Mid-Century Transitions 


5. Abbot in the Golden Age 

6. Progress of a Victorian School 


PART III. FORTH AND BACK, I 8 8 5 — I 9 I 2 

7. Expansion 

8. Futures 

i8 3 
9. "A New England Aristocrat" 

2 °5 



10. The Ladies Stand Fast 

1 1 . High and Low 

1 2 . Singular Women 




13. Teachers and Students and How They Grew 

3 2 3 

14. History in the Making 

34 1 



15. The Trustees Decide 


16. "Make No Little Plans" 


17. Endings and Beginnings 


45 1 
A. Constitution of Abbot Academy 

B. Trustees of Abbot Academy 

45 8 

C. Faculty of Abbot Academy, 1 936-1 973 




Frontispiece: Andover Center and Andover Hill. 

i. Samuel C. Jackson. 19 

2. Sarah Abbot. 25 

3. Edwards Amasa Park. 73 

4. Peter Smith. 73 

5. Philena and Phebe McKeen. 82 

6. Smith Hall Celebrating the End of the Civil War. 85 

7. Philena McKeen with Early Students. 87 

8. Abbot Academy as a Boarding School. 87 

9. A German Play, 1892. 91 
10. Harriet Chapell on Clean-Up Day, 1874. 95 
1 1. A Draper Reader, 1874. 96 
12. "Dancing squarely like mad," 1874. io2 
13. Buying "comfits" Downtown, 1874. 103 
14. Bedfellows, 1882. 104 
15. The Eclipse 17 October 1874. 109 
16. "Kate and Virginia" of Thornton Hall. 1 1 1 
17. A Picnic, 1888. 116 
18. Male and Female at the Boundary. 12 1 

19. Behind the Barrier. 1 2 1 

20. Professor Churchill Comes to Tea. 130 

2 1 . Warren Fales Draper. 1 3 3 

22. Tennis, 1886. 143 

23. "Plan for Erecting a Group of New Buildings." 154 

24. The "AdcKeen Rooms." 159 

25. The Abbot Campus, 1 890-1 897. 161 

26. Laura S. Watson. 163 

27. Emily A. Means, an Early Photograph. 184 

28. A Grecian Phase, circa 1900. 193 

29. The Senior Nine, 1902. 195 

30. Bertha Bailey, 191 3. 212 

31. The Abbot Seal Dresses Up. 219 

32. Homemaking Laboratory, circa 191 7. 228 

33. Senior Class Play, 191 3. 231 

34. "Masque of the Flowers," 1914. 231 

35. The Abbot Chapel. 236 

36. The Dear Old Girls. 243 

37. Back When. 243 

38. Jane B. Carpenter and Burton S. Flagg. 249 

39. Cooking Outdoors in the Grove, 1933. 257 

40. Miss Hearsey Greeting Dancers at the Senior Prom, 1941. 265 

41. Miss Sweeney Greeting Dancers at the Senior Prom, 1941. 268 

42. The Abbot Faculty, 1938. 277 

43. Christmas Vespers. 281 

44. The Abbot Observatory. 3 1 2 

45. Christmas Dolls for the Hinman School in Kentucky, 1949. 312 

46. To South Church for Easter Services. 3 1 2 

47. Mary H. Crane. 318 

48. Lines of Authority: 1964. 350 

49. Lines of Authority: Proposed. 351 

50. Donald Gordon on Prize Day. 373 

51. Stephen Perrin with Jesse, Born in 1970. 384 

52. Coed Football on the Sacred Circle. 384 

53. Ceramics. 385 

54. The Deans: Carolyn Johnston and Carolyn Goodwin. 396 

55. All-Girls' Soccer. 399 

56. Houseparents. 399 

57. Talk and Laughter. 404 

58. Growing Up Black. 407 
59. Sex Education, Illustrated. 415 

60. The Butt Room. 422 

61. Coeducation: A Decision Tree. 424 

62. Coordination: u The Gates Ajar." 431 

63. The Last Board of Trustees, 197 2- 197 3. 437 

64. An Abbot Birthday Party. 446 


Early Days, 1828-1852 

Abbot's infancy, healthy and precarious by turns, demands a full de- 
scription, for the school's character was grounded in its first quarter- 
century and set in firm relationship to the needs of the age. Granted, 
some features of this early period could not survive, and others— such 
as the pedagogical partnership with Phillips Academy— were set aside, 
not to be revived until the twentieth century; but the essentials were 
laid down: a double commitment to basic intellectual training and 
moral guidance, a commitment strengthened by a habit of resistance 
to passing fashions, and by— above all— a respect for the importance of 
women in American society. 

Of Times, Town, and 
Founding Fathers 

During a ministry of a quarter of a century , / 
have been much tried, and have witnessed the trials of 
many pious parents, on account of the levity and folly 
of youth generally, from fourteen to twenty -two. That 
period of seven or eight years, which seals the destiny 
of so many for time and eternity, causes more anxiety 
to the pious of my acquaintance than any other period. 
A rural clergyman of 1828 

Do females possess minds as capable of improvement as males? 

Subject of Philomathean Society debate, 

Phillips Academy, 1827 

On February 15, 1828, this notice appeared on trees and buildings 
throughout the town of Andover: 

Those persons who feel favorably disposed toward the establish- 
ment of a FEMALE HIGH SCHOOL in the South Parish of 
Andover, are requested to meet at Mr. James Locke's, on Tuesday 
evening next, the 19th inst., at 6 o'clock, P.M. 

No documents tell us who first decided on the founding of Abbot 
Academy. Had a single person been responsible, the story might have 
been simpler. We do know that the above announcement was drawn 
up by five men: Samuel C. Jackson and Milton Badger, the ministers of 
South Andover's two Congregational churches; Amos Abbott and 
Mark Newman, two of their deacons; and Samuel Farrar, Esquire, the 
Treasurer of Phillips Academy, Andover. Guessing at where their con- 
stituency could be found, they posted it in the churches, in the shops, 
in the Andover National Bank, and in the classroom building of An- 
dover Theological Seminary, the most imposing structure on Andover 
Hill. The response must have pleased them, for "a goodly number of 
citizens met upon the evening appointed," as Abbot's first historian 

EARLY DAYS, I 828-1852 

wrote fifty years later. 1 The assembled company voted to establish a 
school, and set to work. 

It would not be easy. More than once, almost everyone lost heart; 
for a few hours one July day, the project was officially abandoned. 
Only determined men and women could found a "female high school" 
in 1828, and only a special community could sustain it. Yet however 
weak the plant would appear during stressful seasons both early and 
late, it was firmly rooted. The American republic was finally ready to 
experiment with education for young women; ideas as to its shape and 
direction abounded in the late i82o's. The town of Andover, though 
conservative, was peculiarly hospitable to institutions of learning, and 
several of its women residents felt it was high time that Andover girls 
had their own. Finally, the careful, stubborn men who set out the 
seedling knew their business and their law as they knew their commu- 
nity: the deeply Christian idealism that moved them was lifeless, thev 
realized, without the practical stays by which human works prosper. 

The Times 

The year 1828 was a dramatic moment in a turbulent time. Andrew 
Jackson's presidential campaign and election were political expressions 
of social changes that had been building for decades. The sixty years 
since the American colonies had begun their drift away from England 
had been difficult ones, brimming with emergencies and excitement. 
As early as 1776, Samuel Phillips, Jr., the founder of Phillips Academy, 
was lamenting "the prevalence of public and private vice, the amazing 
change in the tempers, dispositions and conduct of people in this coun- 
try." He diagnosed the trouble as "public ignorance" and deplored the 
"neglect of sound instruction," a dangerous indifference, given that 
"the comfort and grief of parents . . . the glory or ruin of the state" 
depend on youth, in all its vulnerability and volatility. Phillips right 
then resolved to repair this neglect of education. His Phillips Academy 
opened in 1778, the United States' first incorporated boarding school 
and the first of the educational institutions on Andover Hill. What 
Judge Phillips resolved upon, he accomplished. 2 

In voicing his anxiety, this up-and-coming citizen of Andover town 
was not just indulging his age-old adult right to mourn the weakness 
of youth. Twentieth-century scholar Philip Greven documents the 
fundamental change in family and communal relationships that took 
place in Andover as in many New England towns after 1750. 3 For a 
century after the incorporation of the township in 1646, Andover 


fathers had ruled their families and their lands together, passing on 
their farms intact to eldest sons. Churches had successfully imposed a 
single religion; dissenters held their peace or moved away. No more. 
The Great Awakening, by kindling evangelical enthusiasms, had inten- 
sified sectarian divisions throughout Massachusetts. Rural sons no 
longer waited into their thirties and forties for fathers to turn them 
from unpaid help to partners or heirs. More often they declared inde- 
pendence from family and village constraints; they went soldiering, 
and never returned, or found apprenticeships in faraway towns, or 
(with their young wives) sought land of their own in western Massa- 
chusetts or the Ohio Valley. 4 Finally, the ten-year-old economic and 
political conflict between Massachusetts Bay Colony and England had 
shaken the larger framework of young people's lives. It was no wonder 
that Samuel Phillips was worried. 

This was the generation that would eventually set itself and its own 
children on a self-conscious search for new certainties to replace those 
worn thin, the generation that would carry on the academy movement 
the Phillips family had fostered, and in Andover would raise many of 
the founders of Abbot Female Academy. From a twentieth-century 
vantage point, it looks remarkably resilient. When Revolution washed 
over the colonies, these local youngsters found it more congenial than 
most of their parents did; later, as adults with families of their own, 
they could better tolerate the restive peace that followed, with its po- 
litical perplexities and its challenges to ancient social forms. In spite of 
privations, Andover handled the post-Revolutionary stresses with a 
peculiar unity: "When the state was embarrassed with discontent and 
intestine commotion" during Shays' Rebellion, "the town preserved 
order and peace," wrote Abiel Abbot, a contemporary observer and 
local historian. 5 More impressive, two years later this common com- 
mitment to order survived a serious split in Town Meeting over ratifi- 
cation of the Federal Constitution (115 yea, 124 nay). And though the 
residents (nearly all of them stout Federalists) had some struggle to 
adjust to the economic pressures created by the decades of boycott 
and embargo that followed, the ending of the European wars in 1815 
brought freedom at last from foreign threats for Andover and the in- 
fant republic. Americans could concentrate on nation-building, on 
making plans for generations of republicans to come. 

With what should they build? By the 1820's, conservatives had more 
to mourn than the patriarchal family and the rigid Calvinism that had 
disciplined colonial New England. Each individual's world had widened 
toward confusion as scientific discoveries became public knowledge, 
population grew, new roads and canals made once self-sufficient towns 

EARLY DAYS, 1828-1852 

dependent on each other, cities filled up and became more accessible. 
Too accessible, thought many sober citizens of Andover. "Seldom visit 
the capital," Reverend Abiel Abbot warned Phillips Academy seniors 
on their way to Harvard at the turn of the century. "It is dangerous 
ground. . . . Town pleasures, like forbidden fruit, are tempting to the 
senses; but the most innocent of them have a mixture of deadly 
poison." 6 

Perhaps most disturbing— as well as most promising— the rise of in- 
dustry was transforming the face and mind of the Northeastern United 
States. Women's work was affected no less than men's. During the 
colonial era, leisured women were few. Ann Bradstreet, who with her 
husband Simon was one of Andover's original settlers, was criticized 
by her neighbors for writing poetry when she should be plying her 
needle, though President Rogers of Harvard College wrote that "twice 
drinking of the nectar of her lines" left him "weltering in delight." 7 
When her first Andover house burned to the ground in 1666, a library 
of 800 books was destroyed. A certain Abigail Foote of the next cen- 
tury was more typical. A glance at a day out of her diary in 1775 
shows us how a young woman's basic productive tasks filled her life: 

Fix'd gown for Prude— Mend Mother's Riding-hood— Spun short 
thread— fix'd two gowns for Welsh's girls— Carded tow— Spun 
linen— Worked on Cheese basket, Hatchel'd flax with Hannah, we 
did fifty-one pounds apiece— Milked the cows— Spun linen, did 
fifty knots— Made a Broom of Guinea-wheat straw— Spun thread 
to whiten— Set a Red dye— Had two scholars from Mrs. Taylor's— 
I carded two pounds of wool and felt Nationly— Spun harness 
twine, scoured the pewter. 8 

Abigail's daughters would spend their days differently. Even before 
the factories were raised along the Shawsheen and Merrimack rivers, 
farming communities like Andover were inwardly changing in ways 
that were to have momentous implications for New England education. 
Increasingly, the self-sufficient household made itself dependent on the 
town merchant and his wares, while the merchant's wife or daughter 
was herself released from the intricate tasks of cloth and soap making, 
animal husbandry and gardening, until, on the eve of the founding of 
Abbot Academy, the profound, life-sustaining partnership between 
husbands, wives, and their older children had broken down. 

At the same time, certain work opportunities for women outside 
their homes were shrinking. Eighteenth-century women with time to 
spare had found scope for their entrepreneurial and other talents in a 
colonial economy where talent was always scarce: women merchants, 


journalists, even physicians were welcome enough. 9 Post-revolutionary 
maritime strife put home-bound women to work: these earned cash 
for their families on an unprecedented scale when the overseas textile 
trade flagged and American housewives at their looms took the place 
of the mills of Birmingham and Glasgow. Historian Kathryn Sklar be- 
lieves that women gained during this time a sense of pride and power— 
and a material influence on family financial outlays— that was crucial to 
the advent of the female seminary, though none but spinsters and 
widows could legally keep their earnings for themselves. 10 In the 
1820's, however, men were reclaiming all entrepreneurial and profes- 
sional jobs and hungering for more, especially in long-settled New 
England, while women did their weaving in the new water-powered 
mills under men's supervision, or stayed home— often idle if children 
were grown or not yet born. As Morton Hunt has put it, "The indus- 
trial revolution had both relieved [woman] of her labors and robbed 
her of her functions." 11 A question seldom before asked by Americans 
began to surface everywhere: what were women to do with themselves? 

For decades if not millennia, the problem had generally been posed 
in a different way: What were men to do with women? They could 
ignore them, and many tried, including the early Puritan preacher 
Nathaniel Ward, who advised his readers to think of woman as "the 
very gizzard of a trifle, the product of the quarter of a cipher, the 
epitome of nothing." Unfortunately this did not prevent a fashionably 
dressed young lady from disturbing him. "If I see any of them acci- 
dently [he wrote] I cannot cleanse my phansie of them for at least a 
month after." 12 The Puritans, at least, did not fear sex itself; they 
thought it necessary and good within marriage. But husbands must 
keep their wives and daughters under strict control, removing every 
possible occasion for "phansies" like Ward's. 

Given the temptations women represented, men could also demand 
of Eve's daughters that they share in the "fall of man [and] the de- 
pravity of human nature." The Westminster Catechism defined it and 
Andover's South Church endorsed it with a matchless single-minded- 
ness from its founding in 1708 through 1828 and beyond. Thus, though 
men allowed them little say in the practical affairs of the Parish, 
women had to support the Church. Women made up the majority of 
Andover Church members after 1650; it was the women who shook 
heads at the goings-on in the North Parish after 1820: how could those 
dances which the Reverend Bailey Loring arranged for his young pa- 
rishioners lead them to be born again when every one knew that boy- 
girl dancing led straight to perdition? There would be no Unitarian 

IO EARLY DAYS, 1828-1852 

backsliding at the foot of Andover Hill. It was conversion or Hellfire. 
Andover men could do more. Thev could vote unanimous resolu- 
tions in their (all male) Town Meeting, commanding women to help 
the community ride out the economic storms of 1787. Women must 

by their engaging examples . . . devote that power of influence 
with which nature hath endowed them to the purpose of encour- 
aging every species of economy in living, and particularly that 
neat plainness and simplicity in dress, which are among the best 
tokens of a good mind. 13 

All new clothes were to be woven from local wool or flax, and elegant 
mourning clothes must not be made at all. 

In a multitude of ways did men thus define Andover women's lives 
and work. One might expect that they would have long since provided 
for their education, but this they had not done, beyond arranging that 
girls learn just enough of reading to scan the Church's message of salva- 
tion. In most Andover families, girls' education had taken second place 
to boys'. Once Ann Bradstreet's generation of British-educated settlers 
had died off, literary women were almost unknown in Andover. To 
the theocracy of Massachusetts Bay colony, higher education had only 
one purpose: the training of ministers. It would be frivolous to allow 
young women to participate. John Winthrop, Massachusetts' first gov- 
ernor, wrote with distress in his journal of a lady who went insane "by 
giving herself largely to reading and writing." 14 During Andover's first 
hundred years, many women could not even write their names. This 
ignorance was typical of New England women throughout the eigh- 
teenth century, only half of whom were functionally literate. 15 The 
grammar schools that the ever-optimistic Massachusetts legislature pe- 
riodically endorsed were maintained in Andover almost exclusively for 
boys— or not maintained at all, for in Andover, as in many New En- 
gland towns, citizens counted on their local private academy for an in- 
expensive secondary education. There was no secondary schooling 
available to Andover girls until the North Parish Free School (later 
Franklin Academy) opened a "female department" in 1801, and this 
was gradually allowed to languish after the first teacher, Mrs. Eliza- 
beth Peabody, left in 1804. Franklin's situation was typical: shaky acad- 
emies were forever being taken in charge by able and idealistic teach- 
ers, then dropped when idealism was spent or local supporters grew 
complacent. Airs. Peabody, as it turned out, had another destiny as 
mother of two brilliant daughters who married Horace Mann and Na- 
thaniel Hawthorne; Andover's bright young women must shift for 


themselves. "Thus learning in this ancient town" (wrote an Andover 
rhymester in 1854) 

Did early take its stand; 
The fruits now everywhere abound, 

Throughout this wide-spread land. 
But while the males were thus cared for— 

The females were forgotten; 
The boys of yore got all the lore; 

The girls spun all the cotton. 16 

The best the South Parish could do was done, as usual, by Samuel 
Phillips, Jr. Though it never occurred to Judge Phillips that young 
women might share in the "higher education" his beloved Academy 
provided young men, he did bequeath $4,000 in trust to the Phillips 
Academy Trustees, the income to be used "partly for rendering those 
females who may be employed as instructors in the several District 
Schools, within the aforesaid Town of Andover, better qualified for 
the discharge of their delicate and important trust; and partly for ex- 
tending the term of their instruction." In purchasing books for this 
teacher education project, the bequest went on, "all possible care will 
be taken ... to guard against the dissemination of the least particle of 
Infidelity or Modern Philosophy; and also against the dispersion of 
such theological treatises or speculations, as tend to undermine the 
fundamental principles of the Gospel plan of salvation, or to reduce 
the Christian religion to a system of mere morality." 17 To Judge Phil- 
lips, education and religion were inseparable. Most of Andover agreed, 
especially when the Phillips family relieved the taxpayer of funding 
them. At least until 18 10 the town's priorities were often confused: in 
each of the several previous years $15,000 had been spent on "ardent 
spirits," sniffed the South Church minister, Justin Edwards— more than 
twice the entire town budget for schools and other services. 18 Yet in 
spite of taxpayer footdragging, the public elementary ("common") 
schools gained ground steadily in the following two decades; by 1828 
an Andover boy could count on learning to read, write, and cipher, even 
though girls were usually relegated to the brief summer session. 

All this is not to say that Andover's women were helpless without 
formal secondary education. Married, they reared and ran large house- 
holds, or if part of Andover's "great company of old maids," they 
boarded with relatives, nursed them in illness, sewed and cooked for 
them or labored in their fields. One doughty spinster cousin of Samuel 
Phillips, Jr., a Mistress Abbot, was "help" in the family of Judge Phillips' 

12 EARLY DAYS, 1828-1852 

father, and took care of the Phillips farm after the old Squire died. She 
was "a large, strong woman, as able for out-door work as housework," 
wrote local historian Sarah Loring Bailey in 1880. She raised a nursery 
of ten thousand trees, which she "grafted and sold profitably." She 
lived to be 94. "She was blind before she died, and being unable to give 
up her out-door exercise, used to walk by a rope." 19 Girls and young 
women found much informal education in the "literary sewing circles" 
and the prayer or bible-study groups they arranged for themselves 
apart from men's plans for them. Furthermore, in the fifty years fol- 
lowing the Revolution there arrived in the town a small group of 
women who had been educated elsewhere. Principal among them was 
Madam Phebe Phillips, a woman whose influence on education in An- 
dover— though more quietly exercised— was nearly as important as that 
of her husband, Samuel Phillips, Jr. Abiel Abbot knew her and praised 
her highly. The youngest daughter of the sophisticated Foxcroft fami- 
ly of Cambridge, she was "a lady formed by the dignity of her person, 
and the virtues of her mind, to move in the higher walks of life." She 
had wit, imagination, and "an ardent thirst for knowledge" which she 
slaked by extensive reading and writing. "She was the ornament and 
delight of the sentimental circle," writes Abbot, possibly in reference to 
the women's literary society that she conducted in the Phillips "Man- 
sion House" after her husband's death. 20 One of her contemporaries 
said that "her style of conversation surpassed that of anyone, male or 
female, in this country." 21 Kind always to the poor, she also made the 
first founding gift of $5,000 to Andover Theological Seminary in 1808, 
contributing $20,000 more before her death in 18 12. Among her closest 
friends was lawyer Samuel Farrar, who was to be a critical figure in 
the founding of Abbot Academy. Madam Phillips was a special inspira- 
tion to the devout wives of those theological professors who moved to 
Andover from much larger, more various university towns after the 
Theological Seminary was opened in 1808. 

Fine women there were, then, in Andover town, along with men 
who admired them and girls who looked up to them. It is typical of 
Andover that once the community began to take notice of these ladies, 
it claimed them as though by birthright. For Andover was special and 
Andover knew it. Even in straits, this "ancient and respectable town" 
maintained its self-respect, 22 so much so that one English visitor scolded 
his hosts: "One thing I must observe which I think wants rectifying is 
their pluming pride when adjoin'd to apparent poverty, no uncommon 
case." 23 

Andover, in fact, may be pardoned for a bit of pride. The town had 


survived the tumults of political independence and the early industrial 
revolution with far more confidence than many communities. Over- 
arching the dislocations and difficulties of the last sixty years was every 
native townsman's sense of a long past reaching back to the twenty- 
one original proprietors. "Most of the families which first settled in 
Andover became as deeply rooted to the land and the community as 
it is possible for families to be." 24 If the resulting stability tended some- 
times toward suspicion of all things unfamiliar, including education for 
young women, it also bore advantages. Once launched, a new school 
might count on calm waters. The private educational institutions that 
had taken over Andover Hill must have powerfully contributed to the 
optimism that apparently prevailed among the citizens who met at Mr. 
Locke's tavern to found a female high school. By the mid-1820's, An- 
dover had become an intellectual center of New England. The estab- 
lishment of the Theological Seminary under Phillips Academy's Trust- 
ees, so many of whose professors and students would become involved 
with Abbot Academy, marked Andover Hill as a Zion rising above the 
contentious multitudes. New England theology was beginning to 
soften, and Harvard University had long since ceased to teach proper 
Congregational doctrine: "Truth in Cambridge becomes a lie in An- 
dover, and the same of Andover truth when carried to Cambridge," 
wrote Amos A. Lawrence from Andover during his forced rustication 
from Harvard in 1832. 25 Andover, at least, was certain it knew God's 

Andover also knew it had a future. A regular stagecoach from Bos- 
ton (soon to be replaced by a steam-powered train) now brought 
urban ideas to the small town, as well as wags who thrust their hands 
out of the coach windows into the winter air at the Mansion House 
stop to warm them in the fires of "Brimstone Hill." Despite its con- 
servative orientation, the town was learning to accommodate divergent 
opinions. Baptists, Methodists, and Episcopalians were busy organizing 
churches of their own, and although the Unitarians were still safely 
centered in North Andover, there was more "pulpit exchange" than 
had been tolerated in the old days. On its way from 3,389 souls in 1820 
to 4,530 in 1830, Andover was growing— though not too fast— and the 
town was filled with young people in a young populace (the median 
age of all Americans alive in 1830 was 17). Successful manufactories of 
cotton and woolen goods along the Shawsheen River were being ex- 
panded to employ hundreds of operatives, to make modest fortunes 
for their hardworking owners, and slowly to build the prosperity of 
the merchants, bankers, and professional people who would, with the 

14 EARLY DAYS, 1828-1852 

Hill families, become Abbot's first constituency. The year 1828 found 
the town of Andover better prepared than most to support the educa- 
tion of young women. 


Education, yes, but what kind? In theory, a high school offered An- 
dover parents an admirable answer to the question "What shall we do 
with our daughters?" Putting theory into practice meant that the 
founders of a female academy must transcend Andover's cautious 
stance toward all change, assess well-known schools already serving 
young women, and find a way through the maze of conflicting educa- 
tional ideas current in the 1820's. 

A small number of female high schools had already proven their 
worth in other towns and villages; it is likely that these institutions 
were known to the Andover pioneers. Some of the older finishing 
schools provided an attractive model for the socially ambitious parents 
of Andover, though simpler citizens would be skeptical. The famed 
school founded in 1792 by Miss Pierce in Litchfield, Connecticut, of- 
fered "instruction on those rules of delicacy and propriety so impor- 
tant for every young woman." Dabbling in fashionable British text- 
books, girls polished their literary skills; 26 they practiced lady-like 
manners and elegant conversation. 27 The "theatrics" enjoyed by Miss 
Pierce's students might at first glance shock the pious, but every play 
acted was adapted from a biblical text. As in most contemporary fe- 
male academies, the primary task was to refine the Christian sensitivi- 
ties of wives-and-mothers-to-be. One of the first American education 
journalists put it well: "Girls should zealously seek to bring the temper 
and feelings into order and proper subjection, and task themselves to 
the daily and hourly duty of acting out the beauty and symmetry of 
the precepts of our Saviour." 28 

Above all, American opinion endorsed Rousseau's dictum that wom- 
en's education "should always be relative to men." In the bustling, 
competitive 1820's this meant that women should cease whatever efforts 
they had made to intrude on men's sphere. Even traditional women's 
work, such as midwifery, was being aggressively preempted by male 
obstetricians, who were usually far less experienced and little better 
trained than the midwives. That many husbands fought their own pri- 
vate battles with the weaker sex is indicated in the popular article on 
female education quoted above. If only girls could receive "instruction 
from birth to maturity in the things which belong to [their] peace," 


it continued, "women might cease to desire to engage in discussions, or 
influence the decisions of men in affairs foreign to their peculiar de- 
partments." Indeed, many a physician insisted that intensive study of 
such "higher subjects" as philosophy and mathematics would render 
women infertile, thus unfitting them for their most basic function. 

A few dissented. To Benjamin Rush, physician, educator, and states- 
man, building a nation required a new kind of female education no 
longer based on British models. "It is high time," he said, 

to awake from this servility— to study our own character— to ex- 
amine the age of our country— and to adopt manners in every- 
thing that shall be accommodated to our state of society, and our 
form of government. In particular, it is incumbent on us to make 
ornamental accomplishment yield to principles and knowledge, 
in the education of our women. 29 

Proceeding from the Society of Friends' central concept of women as 
men's equals before God, some Quaker educators experimented with 
an entirely un-British idea: coeducation. Other coeducational or coor- 
dinate schools were founded not from principle but from penury. It 
was cheaper for Bradford Academy near Haverhill (Fd. 1804) to con- 
duct separate male and female departments under one roof than it was 
to build two different buildings; thirty-three other academies through- 
out Massachusetts, Maine, and New Hampshire did likewise. 

Yet preference was vying with practicality in favor of all-female 
schools. Bradford would bow to it in 1836. Emma Willard felt that her 
school, first opened in 18 14 in Middlebury, Vermont, for girls alone, 
had provided an extra measure of encouragement for her pupils, and 
amply proved the ability of young women to master the higher sub- 
jects with nothing but advantage to themselves and their future hus- 
bands. She herself had absorbed mathematics and philosophy by assidu- 
ously questioning her nephew every evening on his return home from 
his classes at Middlebury College. She studied his lecture notes and 
textbooks, and asked him to examine her in each field. Mrs. Willard's 
commitment to mothering her own small son increased her scorn of 
the purely "ornamental" skills that had made a name for schools such 
as Miss Pierce's. "When we consider that the character of the next 
generation will be formed by the mothers of this, how important does 
it become that their reason should be strengthened to overcome their 
insignificant vanities and prejudices! "she wrote. 30 This theme resounded 
in the minds of many citizens who had begun to realize that "the 
mothers of republicans" must be well educated if the vulnerable new 
republic was to survive, and Emma Willard expanded on it often to 

l6 EARLY DAYS, 1828-1852 

mollify the conservatives in her constituency. Child of loving, open- 
minded parents, she serenely avoided superficial obstacles, all the while 
pursuing her goal of higher education for women. When she moved 
her school to New York state, she decided to call it a Seminary in- 
stead of a College, even though— like Abbot's founders— she fully in- 
tended some college subjects to be taught. "That word . . . will not 
create a jealousy that we mean to intrude upon the province of the 
men." 31 

Catharine Beecher was not so subtle in her push for serious schooling 
for young women. Bent on enlarging the successful Hartford Female 
Seminary she had begun in 1823 with her sister Harriet (later Mrs. 
Stowe of Andover) as pupil and assistant, she wrote in 1827 a widely 
read article on "Female Education" in which she unashamedly called 
on the public to support girls' schools as enthusiastically as boys'. 
Sorely needed were "suitable apparatus and facilities" for the study of 
chemistry and natural philosophy; specialist teachers who could concen- 
trate on one field instead of pursuing "twenty-two different branches 
of learning" at once, along with professional libraries for their refer- 
ence, ample schoolrooms, charts, maps, research materials, and history 
books that communicate more than "the bones of history ... as dry 
and bare of interest as was the gloomy collection in the valley of 
vision." 32 Catharine Beecher 's articles were close in their evangelical 
spirit to the sermons of her "zestful and demanding father," Lyman 
Beecher, whom Catharine intensely loved. 33 "A woman should study, 
not to shine but to act" she concluded. 34 

Reactions against such sentiments often burst into print. A corre- 
spondent to the Connecticut Courant said of Miss Beecher's educa- 
tional views that he had rather his "daughters would go to school and 
sit down and do nothing, than to study Philosophy, etc. These branches 
fill young misses with vanity." The girl who undertakes them "will be 
a dandizette at eighteen, an old maid at thirty." 35 Opposition took con- 
crete form in Boston, where the city-run Girls Latin School had proud- 
ly opened in 1826. So alarmed were its detractors by its popularity 
that they forced its closing in 1828. 36 

Yet some brave schools thrived. By 1828 Hartford Seminary's enroll- 
ment had reached 100. The female department of the generously en- 
dowed Friends Yearly Meeting Boarding School in Providence attrac- 
ted students of all faiths, while at Emma Willard's Troy Academy, 
more than 200 girls took advantage of Miss Willard's innovative teach- 
ing methods. Nearer Andover, Joseph Emerson had been talking to 
the young ladies of Saugus as if they had brains, according to a con- 
temporary observer. 37 Two of Emerson's former pupils, Zilpah Grant 


and Mary Lyon, had left prosperous Adams Academy in Derry, New 
Hampshire, protesting its constituents' slide away from strict Calvin- 
ism, to found their own female Seminary in Ipswich. Thus Abbot 
Academy's founders had some solid models to emulate: pious, hard- 
working schools that embraced intellectual goals similar to those de- 
clared by the institutions already standing on Andover Hill. True, they 
had to thread their way through the tangled controversy over the 
purposes of female education, but that made an appropriate beginning, 
for the controversy would reappear in many guises over the 144 years 
of Abbot's existence. In the 1820's the very liveliness of this national 
argument must have opened many people's minds to the possibilities of 
higher education for girls, and pricked Andover citizens to create a 
superior school of their own. Thus the times favored female educa- 
tion; the town seemed likely to welcome it. Now the founders must 
bend to their task. 

The Founding 

There is no record of what happened at the first meeting. We do 
know that all seven of the men who would serve as Abbot's original 
Trustees were there, and that at least five of them were accustomed to 
being listened to. These five had much in common to certify them as 
belonging to the Andover Establishment. They all served as directors 
of Andover's only Bank, Samuel Farrar being President and Amos 
Blanchard, Cashier. None could keep clear of politics, whether as ad- 
visers or public officers. Amos Abbott took the prize here, for he 
served at one time or another as town clerk, treasurer, moderator of 
Town Meeting, and School Committee member. He was either An- 
dover's State Senator or Representative for much of his adult life, and 
he served three terms in Congress. The man of slightest build and 
fewest words was Deacon Mark Newman, but Newman was a Phillips 
Academy Trustee, having been Phillips Headmaster for fourteen years, 
and if his colleagues on the Hill-top rarely lamented his departure 
from the Headmaster's post, the men of Main Street respected him, 
returning him to the Abbot Board presidency again and again. Busi- 
nessmen Hobart Clark and Amos Blanchard made money to use for 
the Lord's service as well as to keep their fine houses. More than once 
these two would search their own pockets to pay the interest on Ab- 
bot's debt. Indeed, all five were church members who had long held 
expensive center-section pews in South Church. Deacon Abbott's pew 

l8 EARLY DAYS, 1828-1852 

to buy it because he paid one of the highest tax bills in Andover, and 
the rich had first choice even in the old days. 38 "Throughout the nine- 
teenth century," writes Joseph Kett, "no group surpassed evangelical 
Protestants in their intellectual and institutional concern with youth." 39 
These leaders and churchmen of Andover were unusual only in their 
special concern for the education of female youth. 

The two young ministers needed no pews, having pulpits. Though 
they were new to their jobs, their status in the community was crucial, 
Reverend Milton Badger's most of all because he led the South Parish. 
But Samuel Jackson, an outsider, was a fresh wind, and we will hear 
more of him. South Church snobs found it fitting that the upstart West 
Parish congregation should be supporting a Vermonter as its minister. 
Still up north and always too far away to suit Jackson were several 
sisters much beloved, a sophisticated, well-schooled mother, and a 
minister father, all of whom believed in higher education for women. 
Much evidence suggests that it was Samuel Jackson and his energetic 
wife Caroline who first determined that Andover should have the fe- 
male high school its leading citizens had long dreamed of. 40 Strange 
though it seems at first glance, it is not so surprising that this young 
newcomer should solidify and lead the inchoate group that had for 
years supported the idea of young women's education in Andover. For 
one thing, Jackson was already well-regarded on Andover Hill: he had 
just graduated first in his class at the Theological Seminary. He also 
knew the law: before entering Andover Seminary, he had spent four 
years clerking in a law firm and studying at Yale Law School. He as- 
sumed that any dream could be made reality, given need, energy and 
practical know-how— and though Jackson was slight of build and 
would often fight off illness in later life, now he had energy to spare. 41 
He was already famous among the West Parish youth for being able 
to vault a five-rail fence, and for doing so when need or impulse arose; 
less dramatically, he had been working to improve the several elemen- 
tary schools in his Parish. He enjoyed the respect of both young 
and old. 

Jackson seems to have looked around his infant parish and discerned 
what many a stodgier New England clergyman would discover too 
late: women were essential to the Church. Even in Andover, the state- 
supported Congregational Church must now plead its case rather than 
take its power for granted. Its disestablishment— to be legally completed 
in 1833— had long been in progress de facto as ever more citizens 
neglected to pay their church taxes, turning instead to town and state 
government for the care of local poor, the education of the young, and 


l 9 

i. Samuel C. Jackson, Trustee, 1828-1879. Portrait by William McMaster, 
1856, currently hanging in Morton House, Phillips Academy. 

the general ordering of community affairs. 42 Merchants, lawyers, and 
manufacturers no longer granted to their ministers the unquestioned 
sway that Reverend Phillips had once sustained over Andover residents' 
lives and fortunes. Although Andover church membership held up re- 
markably well at a time when most of the traditionalist congregations 
were shrinking, there were twice as many female communicants as 
male in the West Parish, a ratio that would obtain throughout the 
twenty-two years of Jackson's ministry. 43 Men might hold all the of- 
fices for this parish of 870 souls, but it was the women who, increas- 
ingly, filled the pews for three services a Sunday, taught most of the 
Sabbath School classes, raised the funds that would send missionaries to 
the heathen, and knelt to pray at the weekday prayer meetings. A 
solid, Christian education could only make their church work more 
effective— yet the daughters of West Andover's farm families lived 

20 EARLY DAYS, 1828-1852 

much too far afield for easy access to Franklin Academy. To Samuel 
Jackson, a nearby female high school must have seemed an essential 
stay both for his parish and for his position within it. 44 

Reverend Jackson took seriously the Creator's impartiality as he 
worked among his male and female parishioners seeking to inspire and 
save. Since boyhood he had "been repelled by stated, formal, pungent 
exhortations to live a Christian life"; 45 his ministry consisted as much of 
mediating his parishioners' disputes and helping them write fair wills as 
it did of preaching the Word. 46 He also believed that churches must join 
with families and schools to build the goodness and intelligence of all 
children. A warm-hearted, generous man, he felt more at home than his 
older colleagues with the egalitarian ethos that prevailed through much 
of the nation in 1828. Later in his life he would work energetically to 
improve Andover's public schools and serve for years as Assistant State 
Librarian, and as Secretary to the Massachusetts Board of Education. 
He was a Trusteee of Phillips Academy and the Theological Seminary 
for thirty years, a Trustee of Abbot for fifty. His philosophical ap- 
proach to any educational issue, his practical skills, and his openness to 
careful innovation remained invaluable assets to all who would listen, 
and his Abbot colleagues usually would. 

For all Samuel Jackson's enthusiasm, Squire Samuel Farrar was first 
among equals, if only because he had for so many years been hoping 
for the advent of a female high school in Andover. Squire Farrar was 
not a writing man; we have no sermons or essays in which to search 
his mind. A technical lawyer, an amateur architect, an "incorruptible 
mathematician" 47 who husbanded every penny as Abbot's financial ad- 
viser and as Treasurer of both Phillips Academy and the Theological 
Seminary, his head was filled with schedules, lists, and practical plans, 
not fine phrases awaiting an audience. He had, moreover, a genius for 
risk-taking which went to work on every project he thought worthy 
of his faith, no matter how difficult of execution. Abbot Academy was 
not the only survivor of odds. Farrar was also to be chief architect of 
both building and program for the Andover Teachers' Seminary (later 
Phillips Academy's English Department) and designer of Phillips Acad- 
emy's first, cheapest (and ugliest) dormitories. 48 He was also cherished 
as a friend and counselor by many of the residents of Zion's Hill. Sarah 
Stuart Robbins remembered him well from her girlhood days. 

Samuel Farrar was not a common man to any of us. With his 
delicate face, his long gray hair falling back from a rather peculiar 
forehead, a shy, retiring manner, and a very sweet, grave expres- 


sion, even of his hands, he was to us by turns, Moses, David, 
Isaiah, John whom the Blessed One loved— any and almost every 
Biblical saint. He was a responsible man, carrying on his shoulders 
not only all the great pecuniary interests of the Seminary, but 
also, seemingly, the responsibility for its theology. He listened to 
every word spoken in the small wooden pulpit as if for one and 
all he must give account at the last great day. 49 

Most important to Abbot's founding, Farrar had faith in women's 
intelligence. He had been one of Madam Phillips' ardent admirers, hav- 
ing boarded with the Phillips family during his bachelor days, and had 
taken her into his own home during her last years of widowhood. He 
surely absorbed from her some of his enthusiasm for women's educa- 
tion. Late in his life, he told his fellow T Trustee Samuel Jackson of the 
"bargain" Samuel Phillips, Jr., made with his "refined and accomp- 
lished" bride to persuade her to move to rustic Andover from a "pleas- 
ant mansion" and "the high life at Cambridge": "It was understood 
between them [said Jackson] that if she would unite with him in build- 
ing up Phillips Academy, he would afterwards join her in founding an 
Academy for girls in the North Parish." 50 Phillips died too young to 
accomplish this, and his wife's death ten years later left Farrar appar- 
ently bereft. He was a coffin bearer at her funeral, and was addressed 
in the funeral sermon "as one of the chief mourners— as if he had been 
her son." 51 Farrar soon married the granddaughter of the great theo- 
logian Jonathan Edwards, herself a woman of remarkable intellectual 
gifts to whom "theology was . . . like prayer," as Sarah Robbins later 
wrote. 52 But it was Phebe Phillips who had been Farrar's original 
"model for womanhood." He was "constitutionally free from romance," 
Edwards Park assures us, "but he had been electrified by Madam 
Phillips." For fifteen years after her death, his commitment to young 
women's education remained strong; it was readily activated in 1828 
when his fellow townsmen begain to catch up with him. 

Although Farrar and Jackson were prime movers, other Trustees 
were immediately helpful. Even before the Board had been formally 
elected, Amos Abbott and Mark Newman each offered an acre of land 
for the school building site, Abbott's on Main Street and Newman's on 
School Street, half way up the Hill. Progress so far was smooth. A 
committee of seven had decided to accept the Main Street site, to 
raise funds by subscription, and to build a two-story brick building. 

I Ten days later the Trustees met at the home of Deacon Amos Blan- 
chard, their first Treasurer; they appointed Squire Farrar and the two 

22 EARLY DAYS, I 8 2 8 — I 8 5 2 

ministers to draft a constitution, and appointed a Building Committee 
composed of Hobart Clark and Mark Newman, who quickly arranged 
for the Main Street lot to be fenced in. 

These sons of intellectual Andover, with its "certain disinclination 
to economics," 53 could produce a constitution more easily than the 
funds needed to put principles into practice. Still, principles came first. 
The Trustees were determined that their institution would be a corpo- 
rate entity, with a legal framework braced against the weaknesses and 
failures of individuals. Abbot's constitution, though a period piece, was 
to prove durable. Its detail expresses Samuel Farrar's care for contin- 
gencies, its statement of educational purposes the entire group's con- 
cern for young women's souls as well as for the workaday needs of 
their lives in this world. 

The primary objects to be aimed at in this School shall ever be to 
regulate the tempers, to improve the taste, to discipline and en- 
large the minds, and form the morals of the youth who may be 
members of it. To form the immortal mind to habits suited to an 
immortal being, and to instill principles of conduct and form the 
character for an immortal destiny, shall be subordinate to no 
other care. Solid acquirements shall always have precedence of 
those which are merely showy, and the useful of those which are 
merely ornamental. 

The curriculum was ambitious indeed: 

There shall be taught in the Seminary Reading, Spelling, Chiro- 
graphy, Arithmetic, Geography, Composition, History, Geome- 
try, Algebra, Natural Philosophy, Astronomy, Sacred Music, and 
such other Sciences and Arts, and such of the languages, ancient 
or modern, as opportunity and ability may permit, and as the 
Trustees shall direct. 

The Principal Instructor could be either "male or female." The Trust- 
ees must all be "professors of [meaning those who profess belief in] 
religion of the Congregational or Presbyterian denomination." The 
Supreme Trustee's support was assumed in the document's closing 

Trusting to the All-wise and Beneficient Disposer of events to 
favor this our humble attempt to advance the cause of human 
happiness, we humbly commit it to his patronage and blessing. 


The constitution was unanimously adopted on July 4, 1828, and signed 
by the seven founding Trustees. 

It is not clear what the women supporters of the "female high 
school" were doing at this point— not even certain that they were pres- 
ent and voting at the initial organizational meeting. Most likely, their 
major influence was exerted in conversation and argument at the break- 
fast table. The active wives of ministers, schoolmasters, and theology 
professors of whom we read in Sarah Robbins' memoir are not apt to 
have kept silent on the subject of their daughters' education. Legally, 
however, they were powerless to join in any formal decisions. The 
status of Massachusetts women as citizens had actually deteriorated 
since colonial times. They had lost the franchise completely after the 
colony's earliest decades, when the Old Province Charter formally 
granted them the right to vote for a few local officers. Even when the 
right obtained, women could rarely meet property qualifications for 
suffrage. Under English common law and American practice, only 
single women and widows might hold and control property, make 
contracts with other persons, sue and be sued. Married women had no 
such rights. "The very being or legal existence of the woman is sus- 
pended during the marriage," explained Blackstone in his Commen- 
taries?* Wives were not to gain independent property rights in any 
state until 1839, ana< these state-protected rights were to remain mini- 
mal throughout the nineteenth century. 

The belittlement of women's legal and economic status may be one 
reason why money for the new female high school was proving so 
hard to come by. Founders of schools for young men had a far easier 
time of it. In an Act which underlined the semi-public character of the 
early academies, the General Court in 1797 had supported with 450,000 
acres of land grants the founding of academies throughout Massa- 
chusetts and Maine— but only a few of these had female departments, 
and none was for girls alone. By 1828 Phillips Academy had already 
accumulated donations of nearly $75,000 in addition to the original 
gifts of land (141 acres in Andover and another 200 in Jaffrey, New 
Hampshire). The Theological Seminary's buildings and equipment cost 
well over $200,000, assets that are worth millions today. Meanwhile, 
advocates of women's education were exhilarated by Zilpah Grant's 
success in securing a bequest of $4000 for Adams Academy in 1824. 
No one found it strange that Miss Grant's next Seminary in Ipswich 
had to open in a building rented from a group of male investors look- 
ing for a profit. Catharine Beecher could not herself persuade the 
wealthy men of Hartford to give a penny of the $5000 she needed to 

24 EARLY DAYS, 1828-1852 

expand her Hartford Female Seminary. Women were not altogether 
without resources, however. Miss Beecher finally rallied the ladies who 
had attended her weekly prayer meetings, and the $5000 materialized 
after all, the largest donation coming from the father of a student 
whom Catharine Beecher herself had converted to confession of Chris- 
tian faith the year before. 

Another cause of the Trustees' fund-raising difficulties soon became 
clear. The women might not vote, but they could exercise an informal 
veto over the men's plans. Emily Adams Bancroft, Abbot 1829 and 
daughter of Phillips Academy's Headmaster John Adams, later de- 
scribed what they were up to. 

It was the determination to locate the institution on Main Street. 
But many of the mothers were dissatisfied, as this was the street 
most frequented by the "Theologues and Academy boys." My 
mother and Mrs. Stuart consequently drew up a petition, request- 
ing a change in location. Elizabeth Stuart and I circulated said 
petition. When we had received a sufficient number of signatures, 
it was handed to the Trustees. 55 

On the morning of July 24 the Trustees, discouraged by these and 
other "formidable objections" met in the Banking Room of the new 
Andover Bank and "voted, That it is not expedient to erect a building 
for a Female Academy on our present plan, with our present means." 
All the Trustees were in attendance, "Dea. Newman excepted." 

It is almost certain that Samuel Farrar spent one of the next few 
hours talking earnestly with his client and friend, Madam Sarah Abbot. 
Though childless herself, Madam Abbot had been a close companion 
to Madam Phillips and a member of the Phillips literary circle, who had 
doubtless joined in conversation about young women's education. In 
her quiet way, she was a charitable soul. For two years she had given 
a home to Obookiah, the young Hawaiian boy brought to Andover by 
a Theological Seminarian determined to educate the heathen; Madam 
Sarah had prayed with him every day, and had seen to his schooling. 
She was not wealthy— her late husband Nehemiah (a descendant of 
George Abbot of Rowley) had resigned as first Treasurer of the Phil- 
lips Academy Trustees because his colleagues had too grudgingly re- 
sponded to his request for a stipend— but she was frugal and comfort- 
able. She doubtless felt a certain prim satisfaction at being an Abbot 
by birth as well as marriage. A direct descendant both of George Ab- 
bot, one of Andover's twenty-one original proprietors, and the Rever- 
end George Phillips, Judge Phillips' progenitor, she was surrounded by 


2 5 

2. Sarah Abbot, supposed to have been painted by T. Buchanan Read, 
currently hanging in Abbot Chapel, Andover. 

prestigious relatives— and probably as many who were less prestigious, 
for there were over forty Abbot and Abbott families in Andover. In 
such a setting a woman need do nothing special to distinguish herself. 
Until now Madam Sarah had merely lived an inconspicious life between 
her home near the top of Andover Hill and her church at its foot. 

In a single afternoon, all this would change. Legend has it that Sarah 
Abbot asked Squire Farrar, "What shall I do with my surplus funds?" 
and that he, as though he had been waiting years for this very mo- 
ment, immediately replied "Found an Academy in Andover for the 

26 EARLY DAYS, 1828-1852 

education of women." This conversation probably took place some- 
time before July 24, but Madam Sarah was one of the women who 
quietly opposed the Main Street site, and her gift had not been made. 

In any case, a few hours after the first meeting had been so dismally 
adjourned, a second was called. Deacon Newman was present this time. 
Squire Farrar announced Madam Abbot's promise of a bequest of 
$1000, conditional on the building location being moved, as Farrar had 
undoubtedly told her it could be. Mark Newman again offered his 
acre on School Street, and both gifts were accepted. Farrar would lend 
the Trustees the $1,000 immediately needed, with Sarah Abbot's be- 
quest as surety. "The day was saved!" exults Jane Carpenter, Abbot's 
chief archivist, in her lively account of the school's founding. 56 The 
Academy building could now be raised. 

When the Trustees met to prepare their application to the General 
Court for an act of incorporation, they readily voted to name the 
school Abbot Female Academy after its principal donor. As Reverend 
Raymond Calkins later remarked, "How cheaply some people have 
bought immortality!" 57 Like most Abbots, Sarah would live long. Her 
lingering was to keep Abbot in suspenseful debt for twenty-two 
years; but her final legacy to the Academy amounted to $10,109.04, a 
crucial sum for the struggling school. The money had not come cheap- 
ly to Sarah. A latter-day Abbott 58 wrote that to his Jewett grand- 
mother, "the Abbotts were educated fools, who would put beautiful 
books and grand pianos into leaky houses. ... I suppose every one 
of old George's descendants is highly individualistic and original." But 
Sarah Abbot was neither educated nor foolish. To give so generously 
of what she had for women's education was an uncommon if not an 
original act in her time. She earned the honor that Andover has granted 
her these many years. 

Abiel Abbot, in his History of Andover, 1829, rounds off his descrip- 
tion of the town's most prominent buildings by noting "an elegant 
brick building for the Andover Female Academy, soon to be com- 
pleted." 59 It had been swift work. Contractor David Hidden of New- 
bury port, who was on hand during the summer of 1828 erecting one 
of the Theological Seminary buildings, was immediately engaged to 
plan the Academy structure, with ample advice from Squire Farrar and 
Principal-elect Charles Goddard. Hidden hired three carpenters at the 
end of August and began the work, paying Mr. Berry $1.16 a day, Mr. 
Holt $i.49 1 /£ a day, and himself as master carpenter $1.50. Hidden's 
tally book with its minute notation of detail suggests that he and 
Farrar must have agreed well together. 


My Work on the Academy 

Began to Work Statedly on the Academy Friday August 29, 1828. 

Raisd Oct 25th 

myself 69% & 14% days 

Mr. Parker 6SV2 & 4% days 

Mr. Holt 46V2 & 4 x /4 days 

Mr. Berry 66 3 A & 6V2 days 

Mr. Saunders workd on the Colums 13V2 Days & on the Bases 

8% Days at Cambridge 

My Expenses of Jorneys on the Academy 
August 30— my Expenses of horse keeping & Dinner to Tyngsbury 

to se about Stones . ....... .62 

Sep 1 1— Dr to 34 Feet of pine Plank for Bord Timber . . .85 

Sep 15— Dr to 1 5 feet more of Plank 37 

What work my hands on the academy has Done at other places 

to be taken out of time I have set Down 

Sep 1 7— Mr. Berry half a Day helping me make a Coffin 

Sep 18— Mr. Amos Holt half a Day making a Box for Mrs. 


By November the roof had been raised, and the original donations 
were spent. Farrar offered to advance $1000 toward the building's com- 
pletion, "the said building to be considered as pledged to him for the 
eventual payment of the money with interest," 60 but the Trustees 
chose instead to accept a similarly canny offer from the Phillips Acade- 
my Board, on which both Farrar and Newman served, along with 
$2000 more lent by Madam Abbot, who apparently found her pocket 
deeper as she watched Abbot Academy taking shape, with its grand 
portico, its full-story upstairs hall, and its two large classrooms below. 
Gratefully, the Trustees authorized finishing off the basement "for 
chemical purposes," and granted Sarah Abbot the right to place one 
scholar free in her namesake school as long as she lived. 61 

Hidden and his "hands" were able to finish most of the interior by 
spring. The Reverends Badger and Jackson wrote a prospectus adver- 
tising the "elegant and spacious edifice, seventy feet front, by forty 
feet deep," solid proof of the seriousness of the enterprise. Abbot 
Academy promised "to meet the high demands, corresponding with 
the progress of public sentiment on the subject of female education, 
and with its consequent improvements." If the Phillips Academy Philo- 
mathean Society could resolve in the affirmative its question as to fe- 

28 EARLY DAYS, 1828-1852 

males' capacity for intellectual improvement— as it did— perhaps the 
rest of the world could do so too. At nine o'clock on the morning of 
May 6, 1829, Abbot Female Academy welcomed seventy girls and 
young women into its halls. 

Pious Pioneers 

Our classes are now all arranged. The vessel is 
ready, sails spread, and we are hoping the pro- 
pitious breeze of Industry will soon waft us to 
the shores of Knowledge. 
Abbot student, Julia Ann Pierce, April 21, 1840 

A letter from Samuel C. Jackson to Henrietta Jackson, Dorset, Ver- 
mont; written in April 1829: 

Dear sister Henrietta, 

You perceive from the foregoing page when the school com- 
mences, and also the terms of instruction. I spoke the other 
evening to the deacon's folks about your coming here to spend 
the summer and attend school with Phebe. The deacon said I 
must board you & that your living would make but little differ- 
ence, that he might as well provide for three as for two. 1 You will 
of course eat but two meals here a day, & will do your own wash- 
ing & ironing, & we shall find your house room & bedding, so 
that the deacon can afford to board you very cheap. If you be- 
have well, / shall not charge you much, though I shall expect 
to be at considerable trouble to take care of you— you must, most 
of the time, be carried to, or brought from school, once a day. 
I feel anxious to have you finish your education— to pursue your 
studies now in the season of acquiring, & feel as though you might 
do it with little expense during the ensuing summer. It is very 
decidedly my opinion that you had better fix up immediately & 
purpose to be here at the opening of the school, or as soon as 
possible. . . . 

It will be about a mile & a-half from here to the school, & this 
you can & ought to walk once a day, & in good weather you can 
on a pinch do it twice . . . You may think perhaps, that it will 
be too much trouble to carry or bring you once a day, but as 
Phebe will go too, & as the deacon has a horse & chaise & boys, 

30 EARLY DAYS, 1828-1852 

& as I have a horse & chaise, we can between us do it with little 
trouble. Please to write immediately your conclusions about it, 
& when you shall come, if you come at all. 

Having begun with one of his favorite topics— female education— Jack- 
son goes on to his other two: politics and religion. He feels he must 
explain why he voted for Andrew Jackson, since he was one of a mere 
handful of Andover citizens to do so. 2 

Anything but a Unitarian for President. Since Adam's downfall 
countenances have fallen several degrees below zero. Adams has 
come off rather sneaking; but no more of politics, lest I have 
Mother in my hair— I'm really sorry, though, that she is so favor- 
able to Unitarians; I used to think her sound in the faith . . . 

You will see by the last Recorder that Mr. Carleton's wife is 
dead. I have heard of no particulars. She has been cut down in 
the midst of her hopes— in the morning of her glory, & where is 
she, Ah! where? Whether she had hope in her death, I know not. 
If she had no Saviour, she has wasted life & lost her soul!! No 
accomplishments, no acquisitions, no worldly prospects can avail 
her now— they could not avert the arrow of death, or prepare 
her spirit to dwell with Christ. Be admonished, & be wise. 

Sam'l C. Jackson 

Clearly, the saving of Henrietta's soul was as important to her 
brother as her education. And politics absorbed him as politics ab- 
sorbed nearly everyone in those times. Andrew Jackson had been presi- 
dent for only a few weeks, and already Whiggish Andover citizens 
were pulling long faces; it says worlds of Samuel Jackson's tact and 
talents that his middle-aged Trustee-colleagues (bank directors all) 
were willing to accept his Democratic leanings. President Jackson and 
his immediate successors would be hard pressed to give direction to 
the a mad, shifting world" of the 1830's and 1840's: 3 business's boom- 
bust-boom cycle would make families' fortunes less certain than ever, 
while the democratization of economic and political opportunity gath- 
ered speed and intellectuals tried to make sense of it all from their 
pulpits, university lecture rooms, or science laboratories, or in their 
shaky, exhilarating Utopian communities. Educators, too, contended 
with one another over the purposes and techniques of their profession 
on the pages of the new educational journals. Many were experiment- 
ing with innovations first observed in Europe, or inventing their own. 
This first quarter century of Abbot's career was the grand era of the 


privately founded academy. Abbot both drew strength from the com- 
mon academic culture and responded in its unique way to the needs 
of its constituency. 

Man's Place 

Henrietta Jackson, nineteen years old and capable of responding sen- 
sibly to her brother's letter, hurried to make her arrangements in time 
to arrive in Andover for the opening of Abbot. She would stay at the 
Academy for only one term. As will be seen, however, Abbot was to 
figure largely in her own and her children's lives, and to be in many 
ways a Jackson family affair. 

Henrietta came to an Abbot founded for women and run by men. 
Masculinity did not, however, guarantee stability. Count the number 
of principals in Abbot's first fifteen years and the school looks like 
a "mad, shifting world" in itself. 

1 829-1 83 1 Charles Goddard 

1 83 2-1 8 34 Samuel Lamson 

1 834-1 835 Miss Louise Tenney (acting principal) 

1 835-1 838 Samuel Gilman Brown 

1 838-1 839 Rev. Lorenzo Lorraine Langstroth 

1 8 39- 1 842 Timothy Dwight Porter Stone 

Special teachers and assistants also changed rapidly, except for the 
gentle Miss Stone, teacher of the Introductory Class for eight- to 
twelve-year-olds. The Academy was deep in debt, its entire plant 
mortgaged to Phillips Academy and to Squire Farrar. Though Madam 
Sarah Abbot continued to add to her legacy for Abbot's future, she 
was still very much alive. In this situation, the Trustees were Abbot's 
ballast, always managing to staff the school and (except for one term 
during Goddard's tenure) to keep it open. In the leanest years, several 
of them paid the interest on the mortgage notes out of their own 
pockets. Students, too, were constant: for every "flitting scholar" who 
stayed for just a term there was another who attended five years or 
more. Trustee Amos Abbott sent all seven of his daughters to the school. 
Meanwhile, the succession of principals played counterpoint to the 
institutional cantus firmus. All were young, all scholarly gentlemen, 
and this in itself made Abbot rather unusual. Gentility was not to be 
taken for granted in a day when many schoolmasters were barely edu- 

32 EARLY DAYS, 1828-1852 

cated boors. Mr. Goddard's "refined and polished manners were a con- 
stant surprise to those of us who had formed our ideas of the male 
teacher by the average master of those times," wrote Mrs. Mary Ann 
Durant Bullard '37, in a letter to Miss McKeen. 4 Three of the princi- 
pals were students at Andover Theological Seminary during part or all 
of their time at Abbot. Samuel Lamson brought sober orthodoxy from 
the Seminary, "quite in contrast to the wide-awake, almost sportive 
manner of Mr. Goddard," said Mrs. Bullard. "Of all the teachers I 
have known, no one knew so well as [Mr. Lamson] how to reach the 
conscience in matters generally considered too trivial to be referred to 
it at all." 5 The "vivacious" Timothy Porter Stone, adopted son of Sem- 
inary professor Ebenezer Porter, was more appealing. He brought a 
barrage of new ideas— so many that "he hardly stayed to place one plan 
steadily on its feet before he dropped it for another," according to 
Philena McKeen. 6 At least one alumna found him a "delightful teacher," 
and recalled that he managed to be simultaneously a writer, a father, 
and a kindly landlord for Abbot boarders as well as a theological stu- 
dent. 7 The special language instructors were often "theologues" too. 
William G. Schauffler, just arrived from Germany for his ministerial 
studies, was a master teacher of both French and German at a time 
when few academies offered German at all. A highly cultured man, he 
also (writes Miss McKeen) possessed a "weird power" over his flute, 8 
and his commitment to missionary work in the Near East was even 
then an inspiration to a Christian academy. 

Goddard and Lamson were capable men, but it is Samuel Gilman 
Brown, the third of Abbot's six male preceptors who best illustrates 
the benefits Abbot gained by functioning on the principle articulated 
by M. Carey Thomas, first woman president of Bryn Mawr college. 
Said Miss Thomas of her extraordinary faculty: "We get them while 
they are young, exciting teachers, and they leave to grow old in the 
universities." 9 Abbot's Brown was not a Woodrow Wilson (a young 
teacher whom President Thomas never liked), and one can hardly say 
he later ossified as professor at Dartmouth and President of Hamilton 
College; he was, said alumnae, "one of the kindest and best of men . . . 
very decided but not harsh;" "a most refined and scholarly man, a 
faithful, accurate and enthusiastic teacher." 10 Earlier, Mr. Lamson had 
begun the Abbot tradition of frequent walks or buggy rides to the 
ocean or other places of interest (some of these started at 4:30 a.m.); 
from alumnae recollections we get an image of Samuel Brown pa- 
tiently lifting one sodden adventurer out of a ditch on a berry-picking 
expedition to which the whole school had traveled by train. The en- 
gineer waited while her clothes were dried at a nearby farmhouse, 


then covered the seven miles from Wilmington to Andover in only 
twelve minutes, a "wonderful feat" in those days. 11 

The public expected the principal of an academy to attend to each 
pupil's moral character, to u the improvement of her mind as a whole," 
and to her intellect's connection with "the great purposes of life." 12 
Brought up since age seven by his "serene, saintly" mother, 13 Princi- 
pal Brown seems to have had a special understanding of young girls' 
needs. He also possessed a determination modeled on his memories 
of his minister father, "one of the most honorable representatives 
of a profession which then controlled society," and president of Dart- 
mouth College at the time of his death in 1820. 14 Serious though his 
purposes might be, he must have had a sense of humor. He required 
one composition class to "prove there is no such man as Andrew Jack- 
son." This problem had a "Miss Stow" stumped at first, according to 
a friend, "but she did it at last and a spicy thing it was." 15 Brown was 
a man of wide sympathies: he loved music as he loved children, with a 
simple joy that touched his friends. At the same time, "he was familiar 
with the whole range of English literature, from its crudest, roughest 
elements in Chaucer and Gower to the . . . most refined and polished 
numbers." 16 It may have been under Brown that Abbot pupils first 
attended Shakespeare lectures at the Teachers' Seminary, a daring ex- 
pedient at a time when most female academies forbade the study or 
acting of Shakespeare altogether, and Harvard's Shakespeare course 
was twenty-five years in the future. 

Whatever subject Brown taught, "We caught his enthusiasm," wrote 
an alumna, "and strove to study well so as not to disappoint him, as 
well as for learning's sake." 17 Brown's successor, the Reverend Lorenzo 
Langstroth of South Church, was also inspiring; everyone regretted his 
departure after just two terms to devote full time to his parish. The 
best indicators of Langstroth's imagination and scientific interests are 
that he tutored math at Yale before coming to Abbot, and that he later 
invented the Langstroth movable frame beehive. His design revolution- 
ized beekeeping at the time and has remained basically unchanged ever 
since. 18 He had no difficulty persuading his students to do their mathe- 
matics and botany, even though his mind was often on parish prob- 
lems. Indeed, Abbot's first six principals, young though they were, 
seem to have had few problems with discipline. 19 They contrast poi- 
gnantly with Phillips Academy's "Master Adams, [whose] wand of 
office was a villainous ferule about a foot long," 20 of whom his students 
said, "pretty often we could 'trace the day's disasters in his morning 
face.' " 21 True, Adams resigned from the Academy in 1832, acknowl- 
edging himself old-fashioned, but "Uncle Sam" Taylor, who came 

34 EARLY DAYS, 1828-1852 

soon after and stayed till 1871, was equally fierce— and equally old- 
fashioned. Caning and humiliation were approved pedagogical tech- 
niques in many antebellum boys' schools and colleges; fortunately they 
were rare in female seminaries. 22 

Asa Farwell, the sixth and last man to serve as principal, was not so 
commanding or vital as the first five, but he had one great virtue: he 
stayed. For ten years after coming down to Abbot from the Theologi- 
cal Seminary he stayed, applying his "Vermont grit" to practical and 
financial problems that had been the despair of his predecessors. 23 
Abbot's male principals took on their indigent enterprise at their own 
risk, serving as their own business managers and reserving for them- 
selves whatever tuition money remained after all expenses were paid, 
including interest on the debt and a dollar a day for each assistant 
teacher. 24 After Goddard had resigned in discouragement, the Trustees 
decided to guarantee each principal $800 a year (the same sum Samuel 
Jackson received from his parishioners), but the system was apparently 
allowed to lapse back to the original "no-profit-no-salary" rule when- 
ever the $800 could not be raised through tuitions and fees. Thus the 
Trustees could not pav a single salarv out of the "empty treasury" 
Farwell found on his arrival in 1842. 25 So often did principals change 
that it is perhaps a wonder that Abbot's enrollment held up at all. Yet 
by the time Asa Farwell had been principal for three years, the roster 
of pupils had grown to 180. As slow to spend as he was quick to get, 
Farwell acted as the school's gardener and day laborer; students often 
came upon him with his shirtsleeves rolled, landscaping Abbot's one- 
acre grounds himself. 

Pleased to have many of their maintenance and money cares re- 
moved, the Trustees tended to overlook Farwell's faults as an edu- 
cator. They gave him a good press: it is difficult to see beyond the 
smooth surface of Abbot's official historv and find out all one wishes 
to know about Principal Farwell. We learn of his single-minded deter- 
mination from his success late in life as a home missionary who brought 
a frontier congregation of five souls (or four, since he had one man 
excommunicated soon after his arrival) to self-supporting prosperity 
in a year. Yet even Farwell's memorialists (traditionallv effusive) ac- 
knowledge that "there have been many men of more showy and . . . 
popular talent than this modest man of God." 26 Is it possible that he 
stayed at Abbot ten years because he had nowhere else to go? 

Farwell's principalship was not quite the "unprecedented success" 
the McKeens describe. 27 Ten fathers with twenty-seven Abbot daugh- 


ters between them petitioned the Trustees to fire Farwell in September 
of 1848. The protesters believed Farwell wholly lacking in "that gen- 
tlemanly deportment and refinement of manner which are best calcu- 
lated to make favorable impressions in the formation of female char- 
acter." They accused him of managing the seminary "with direct refer- 
ence" to his own "pecuniary interests" rather than for "the good of 
the pupils." He was often absent, even during devotions. They felt he 
made a habit of inflicting disgrace "when the pupil was unconscious of 
any fault," and found it "an unwarrantable assumption of authority" 
for Farwell "to pronounce sentence of expulsion upon individuals who 
voluntarily withdraw from the school." 28 

Strong words, these. Is there confirming evidence? We know some- 
thing of Farwell's quirks from alumnae recollections. He gave one in- 
corrigible trickster a choice between expulsion and having a note sent 
home to her father about her misdeeds; then locked her in the class- 
room during recess. That Farwell looked the other way while she 
lowered strings out the classroom window so her friends below could 
tie on snacks for her refreshment, and that he never did send the note 
after all suggests that he was more wishy-washy than tyrant. 29 How- 
ever, we know from Elizabeth Stuart Phelps's recollections how Far- 
well taught spelling: the method "was severe, no doubt. We stood in 
a class of forty, and lost our places for the misfit of a syllable, a letter, 
a definition, or even a stumble in elocution." 30 We can read in many 
letters to Phebe McKeen of the collective sigh of relief that greeted 
the Reverend Joseph Bittinger, "a teacher of rare power"— who took 
Farwell's place for a single year, and seemed to several correspondents 
both kinder and more inspiring than any teacher they had ever had 
before (Farwell included). 31 

Finally, there is proof of Farwell's "pecuniary interests" in the six- 
teen house lots he managed to amass along School and Abbot streets. 
One may assume that they were bought with the profits of his Abbot 
work, since he had no other known source of income, and that he 
made a pretty penny from the Abbot Trustees when he sold most of 
them for $4oo-$6oo an acre before moving west to take charge of an 
Iowa mission church in 1866. 32 Thus we have at least a suggestion of 
the substance behind the protesters' accusations. 

In private the Trustees probably took the anti-Farwell petition 
seriously. Circumstantial evidence suggests a covert effort behind a 
public whitewash to make the Principal and his school once more 
acceptable to the disaffected parents. Trustee Peter Smith may have 
played a crucial role here, for he was a model of tact, and with 

36 EARLY DAYS, 1828-1852 

seven daughters in or coming to Abbot, he had a large stake in the 
school's success. Smith was business partner to protester John Dove, 
and the wealthy Dove had contributed generously to the Theological 
Seminary; Abbot could ill afford any wholesale defection from the 
protesters and their friends. In public, however, the Board's only re- 
sponse was nonresponse. They refused the protesters a formal hear- 
ing—and denied everything. In all likelihood they were so grateful to 
Farwell for running a reasonably full school that they were unwilling 
to question his day-to-day management; yet the dust-up seems to have 
wrought some quiet changes, since only four of the daughters left 
Abbot after the protest had failed. Possibly most important, Farwell's 
young wife, who had been suffering a painful illness during the year 
that the protesters were gathering evidence for their case against him, 
finally died. His anxiety for her life ended, one surmises that he was 
able to give his Abbot students the attention they needed. In any 
case the rumbles ceased. When Farwell left Abbot for a trip to Europe 
a year later, nine of the protesters' daughters left the school too, al- 
though the year's acting principal was highly recommended. 

Like his part-time predecessors, Farwell never had time to become 
Catharine Beecher's ideal principal, who, besides being moral leader, 
determined each student's course of study and could claim some knowl- 
edge of the intellectual character and education of every individual 
member of the school." 33 Instead, parents generally chose the course 
they were buying for their Abbot daughter, true to the laissez-faire 
spirit of Jacksonian America, while Farwell was left with "keen grief 
that so large a portion of my time must be employed in duties 'outside' 
of school and school hours; but it was the sine qua non of there being 
any 'inside' to be cared for." 34 Possibly, Abbot would have thrived still 
better under a single, powerful woman principal, such as Emma Wil- 
lard or Zilpah Grant. Yet the school's succession of men, along with 
its part-time specialists and several gifted woman assistants, may have 
helped to confirm its students' sense of worth as they tackled tradi- 
tional men's subjects in a male-dominated society. Thomas Woody 

Abbot Academy was unique in that it was presided over entirely 
by men in its early years. The course of study was not regularly 
pursued, nor were diplomas granted until after Miss Hasseltine 
took charge (1853). But a very liberal series of studies was of- 
fered, and the scholarship of Goddard, Schauffler, Lamson, Brown, 
and others, all college graduates, probably insured more excellent 
instruction than was available in most girls' academies. 35 


Woman's World 

It is students who finally make the school, resisting or embracing the 
opportunity to learn from their teachers and from each other. Abbot's 
girls were a special lot— not only the day scholars from "the Hill and 
the Mill" or from the merchant families of Andover town, but the 
boarders from the New England states, New York, New Jersey, and 
Pennsylvania who made up over a third of every school roll through 

They came in all ages and sizes. Henrietta Jackson was older than 
most of the others "in the season of acquiring" who were Abbot's first 
students but not the oldest: academies served girls as both high school 
and college in those days. It was common for young women to alter- 
nate teaching in a common (elementary public) school with study at 
an academy. Throughout the nineteenth century, Abbot's senior class 
was largely composed of women twenty years old or more, and 
several in each decade were twenty-three or twenty-four. Small girls 
came, too, to join the Introductory Class, their parents paying a week- 
ly fee of twenty-five cents for the privilege. Sarah Flagg was one: she, 
like many of her friends, was less interested in lofty educational pur- 
poses than in the fact that her father came along that first day "for 
protector," and that she and her sister were "wearing little pink ging- 
ham calashes, with a bridle attached, to keep them on." 36 Elizabeth 
Stuart, later Mrs. E. S. Phelps, a prolific and popular writer, was a 
member of the Introductory Class, while several of her sisters and 
other precocious girls from the Hill were sorted into First, Second, or 
Third Year students. 

The Stuarts, the five Woods girls, and the Adams and Murdock 
girls were daughters of warm, intelligent mothers and of scholarly 
theology professors or schoolmasters. For decades to come these un- 
usual families' lives would intersect with Abbot's progress. Sarah Stuart 
(Robbins) later recalled that "the Hill, with its great common, its 
severe buildings, its monastic human figures, made up our whole child 
world ... we never went to the circus or to dancing-school; but were 
always expected to take part in whatever went on of services or cele- 
brations within those studious walls." 37 From infancy the Stuart girls 
had heard their renowned professor-father reading Hebrew passages 
aloud behind his study door, or watched him hurrying "like a long- 
legged colt" 38 from lecture room to Hill printing shop, where for 
years he set all the Hebrew type for his books himself. And the sense 
of being something special continued into the second and third gen- 
eration. Mrs. Phelps's daughter (who took her mother's name when 

EARLY DAYS, 1828-1852 

she, too, became a writer) remembered her own friends on the Hill 
as "especially open-hearted, gentle-minded girls," innocent as only 
youngsters prayerfully raised in a circumscribed "university town" can 
be. 39 Andover girls did not waltz or attend Christmas parties. They 
did leave notes for boys in the cleft of a certain well-known rock, and 
they knew their way through the forest to the safest meeting places. 
The Stuart and Woods girls especially helped to set the intellectual 
tone of Abbot Academy. Harriet Woods later wrote that "during the 
year which followed, I woke up wonderfully and enjoyed my studies 
exceedingly." 40 Harriet would eventually join the company of women 
writers born on Zion's Hill. So would her sister Margaret, whose writ- 
ings are of special interest, for she reached out to— and touched— Hen- 
rietta Jackson. In her memorial to Henrietta, Margaret remembered 
how her lifelong friend struggled at Abbot to master her moods, those 
"heart-sinkings" that would plague her until her marriage. 41 Henrietta 
had "a deep, earnest, kindling eye, which told of a world of hidden 
emotions beneath her calm and reserved exterior." 42 The two friends 
had a future in common, for all but one of the first twenty-one Hill 
students married ministers. Yet they cannot have taken themselves as 
seriously as did the Seminary men, "professors and students alike," all 
of whom "felt themselves anointed kings and priests, with momentous 
tasks to perform for the world." 43 Orderly though their upbringing 
was, a schoolmate called the Stuarts and Woodses "the jolliest girls 
among us." 44 The Sabbath was silence itself, but it ended at sundown, 
and often enough the Stuart girls could be found gaily shaking off the 
day's torpors with a clamorous game of ball among the pillars of the 
Abbot Academy porch. 

Unfortunately, Andover's "Mill and Till" girls have left us fewer 
words about themselves. However, they too had grown up enjoying 
advantages to match the restrictions with which all girls were then 
raised. The fathers of the Flagg and Gould girls were engaged in an 
ambitious printing enterprise, one which they consciously operated to 
serve the cause of Christ, printing the nation's first temperance news- 
paper and the first publications of the American Tract Society. 45 The 
A4arland sisters must have had a particularly eventful childhood, since 
their father ran one of the largest mills on the Shawsheen river. Women 
might not boss men, but in Marland Mills, as elsewhere, so Sarah Bailey 
tells us, "it was the custom for the wives and daughters of the mana- 
gers and owners to work, just as it had been for them to spin or weave 
or perform domestic service in their homes." 46 Owners' families had not 
yet put such distance between themselves and the run-of-the-mill as 
they would later create, and Abbot Academy day scholars seem at this 


time to have considered themselves the pride of their town, not a cut 
above it. 

During Abbot's early years, the local Andover elite— bankers and 
wealthy farmers and theological professors— shared a sense of Christian 
mission, a spirit that verified the potential of the humble even as it 
reminded them how far they were from being perfect in Christ. The 
community, wrote Elizabeth Phelps, had "an everlasting scorn of world- 
liness [and of] that tendency to seek the lower motive ... to confuse 
sounds or appearances with values." 47 Surely status distinctions were 
apparent to the inhabitants of this increasingly heterogeneous commu- 
nity; after 1845 they must have been aware of the "shanty Irish" pour- 
ing into Lawrence, swelling the new mill town's population to over 
5000 in 1850, larger than South Andover's already and heading for 
100,000 by the turn of the century. 48 But there are no sounds of class 
struggle heard by Andover's local historians. 49 Abbot's and Phillips' 
formal curricula completely ignore the changes industrialization was 
bringing to so many New England towns. At mid-century Henry 
Ward Beecher would explain the silence by weighing the balance of 
power between the townsmen: the lower and middle classes' "whole- 
some jealousy of their rights, and a suspicion among the poor that 
wealth and strength always breed danger to the weak, made the upper 
class . . . politically weaker than any other." 50 Too weak in Andover 
to dare raise the subject of class conflict? It is more likely that An- 
dover's industrialists and intellectuals were too self-assured, too im- 
mersed in supporting and carrying out their grand educational mis- 
sions to notice. The community divided on social issues (abolitionism 
was one) far more readily than it split into economic factions. Town 
records show that such elected posts as selectman or school committee- 
man were roughly distributed three ways: to the newly wealthy, to 
the men of importance in academy or church, and to the descendants 
of the oldest Andover families. Members of the latter two groups 
could be rich or penurious; regardless, Andover seems to have ac- 
knowledged their right to leadership. 

New England's elite might found academies partly to make up for 
their political weakness, but the early Abbot does not seem to have 
been a snobbish place. The only suggestion of social division we have 
is in the protest against Farwell, for all of the protesters were towns- 
men, while Farwell himself and most of the Trustees were strongly 
I associated with the intellectuals from Andover Hill. A school founded 
with a mission in mind was bound to welcome any white Protestant 
*irl who could pay the fee. Tuition for a term ($5.00) could be— and 

40 EARLY DAYS, 1828-1852 

commodations were meager. One broken stove "heated" the entire 
recitation hall. The Academy building was nearly bare of library 
books and teaching equipment, and it was fortunate that the students 
had the capacity to "supply by their own bright minds and earnest 
will what was lacking in their surroundings," as Samuel Brown put 
it. 52 After 1832 families looking for a more select school could send 
their daughters to Mrs. Bela Edwards' small and expensive seminary 
on Main Street, dubbed "the Nunnery" by the Phillips students and 
theologues, and considered more aristocratic than Abbot. (The Stuart 
family may have found Abbot principal Lamson too severe, for Eliza- 
beth later became one of two day students at the Nunnery.) The 
wealthier Andover families could easily have afforded the more costly 
academies like Ipswich Seminary ($25 a term in 1829), or Miss Beecher's 
Hartford Seminary, where an upper-crust urban constituency fully 
satisfied her social ambitions. But in Andover both the rich and the 
far-from-rich seem to have chosen their own town's frugal "self-made 
school," Abbot Academy. 53 

Early Boarders 

Henrietta Jackson had a room at Deacon True's. The first Abbot 
prospectus promised accommodations for others: 

Arrangements are making to establish in conexion a boarding de- 
partment, where young ladies may enjoy the advantages of home 
in an unremitting attention to their habits and deportment, in the 
parental tenderness and fidelity with which they will be treated, 
and in the care and exertion which will be used to form and 
guard the character. Situations for boarding can also be obtained 
in highly respectable families of the village. 

In Abbot's first ten years, formal "arrangements" never finished mak- 
ing, but students nevertheless found space, wrote one alumna, "with 
private families, some of which were rare homes, indeed, for us young 
girls, giving us privileges scarcely less than those of the school itself." 54 
Samuel Brown's venerated mother took boarders; so did Professor and 
Mrs. Bela Edwards, who offered house room to some theological stud- 
ents along with a few fortunate Abbot girls. Each boarding-house 
keeper was made responsible to the Trustees for imposing a bracing 
routine of early rising, study hours, and prayer, while the boarding 
students were expected to exercise "Christian courtesy and kindness in 
heart, speech, and action" within their boarding houses as everywhere 


else. 55 The "Commons," the Abbot-sponsored boarding house that fi- 
nally materialized in 1839, was inspired by a season of unsuccessful 
negotiations with the pioneering educator, Mary Lyon. In 1834 Miss 
Lyon began seeking offers of help to found her New England Semi- 
nary for Teachers, a residential school to be generously endowed from 
the first, so that young women of limited means might receive excel- 
lent training under "missionary" teachers for whom great work re- 
quired small pay. 56 Mary Lyon was still young at this time, but well on 
her way to renown as one of "the nursing mothers of higher education 
and larger work for women," in the words of a latter-day Abbot stu- 
dent. 57 She agreed with Catharine Beecher that the hours outside formal 
class were inevitably "the hours of access to the heart." 58 "The teachers 
and pupils will constitute one family, and none will be received to 
board elsewhere," said the circular addressed "to the Friends of Female 
Education" which she broadcast throughout New England. The "style 
of living" was to be "neat, but very plain and simple. Domestic work 
of the family to be performed by members of the school. Board and 
tuition to be placed at cost." 59 

Abbot's Trustees received this circular just after Principal Goddard 
had left. Louise Tenney was running the school successfully, but a 
permanent principal was not in sight. As the Trustees' idealism warmed 
them to Miss Lyon's proposal, the Academy's practical difficulties 
hastened an enthusiastic response. Yes, they wrote back, they would 
"change the character of this prosperous institution to meet the general 
views" Mary Lyon had expressed. 60 "We propose to give up to this 
object, free of charge, the spacious and splendid edifice erected for our 
school, at the expense of several thousand dollars." They promised to 
help raise money for "commons" (a dormitory). They expanded on 
the advantages of locating the new Seminary for Teachers in a "reli- 
gious and literary" community of "flourishing schools . . . institutions 
consecrated to the kingdom of Christ," some of which would share 
such equipment as science apparatus, and all of which would attract 
students to one another. 61 Abbot's Trustees ended by offering their 
services as trustees of the new Seminary. Samuel Jackson was ap- 
pointed chief negotiator. 

Mary Lyon politely rejected the Trustees' offer, saying she wished 
the Seminary's location to be selected "by a committee representative 
of the public" (not by the Abbot Trustees, apparently) and that "dif- 
ficulties" would surely attend an Andover site. Perhaps these unspeci- 
fied difficulties turned on the proximity of two schools for males; or 
perhaps they were financial: she needed $27,000, and Abbot's cash box 
was empty. In any case, Miss Lyon moved on to other towns-and 

42 EARLY DAYS, 1828-1852 

for a while, to further discouragements. She attributed her fund-rais- 
ing failures to "good men's fear of greatness in women." 62 Finally, after 
years of labor, she found welcome and funds in South Hadley, Massa- 
chusetts, a smaller, simpler town whose rural virtues were congenial to 
a farm-reared educator-pioneer. There Mt. Holyoke Female Seminary 
opened in 1837, pitching both its charges and its exacting course of 
study to "the class most likely to be benefited from it and to use it for 
the good of the world." 63 

The Trustees' subsequent efforts to raise funds for an Abbot board- 
ing house came to little, but the Academy did not forget Mary Lyon's 
arguments for a residential school. In 1839 tne ebullient Timothy Stone 
opened an Abbot Commons at his own risk in the large house north of 
the Academy building, later to be known as Davis Hall. By having each 
boarder bring her own minimum furnishings, and by asking all takers 
to share in "family" housekeeping, Stone was able to set board charges 
as low as $1.12 l / 2 a week at a time when most landlords charged $2.50 
to $5.00. 

It worked. They worked. The first two boarders (later nicknamed 
Sisters Melody and Cheerfulness by their friends) entered a bare, cold 
shelter on October 26, 1840, and cooked their supper in a single copper 
pot and a broken tea kettle, using stones for andirons. Soon Sisters 
Temperance, Mercy, Music, Calmness, and seven others arrived, with 
Sister Affection as student directress. Smoky bread was baked, half- 
cooked pies were devoured, and Saturday's washing duly done. The 
Trustees began to believe in Commons: they sent the little band a 
table, a bread trough, and a pudding stick, each "hailed with delight," 
wrote Mercy and Calmness in their account of the first year's adven- 
tures. 64 To celebrate, the girls planned a "molasses candy scrape . . . and 
we entered heart or rather mouth and hand into it." "Far sweeter" than 
the most splendid ballroom dance "were our enjoyments," gloated the 
Commons chroniclers, surely Abbot's first Yearbook editors. 

By Spring the place was livable. On Presidential Inauguration Day 
in March of 1841, "all being Whigs, [we] welcomed the hero of Tip- 
pecanoe by ringing all the bells in the house and giving three hearty 
cheers." Soon after, however, the well failed. "The water [was] so bad 
that horses would turn from it in disgust . . . We have heard of emi- 
grants to the west who have lived in this style, but never in the literary 
and wealthy town of Andover did the like happen." Still, Commons 
was home. "Never can we forget the happy days spent together . . . 
When hill and valley intervene, fond memory will love to linger around 
these scenes." 

After several years, Asa Farwell bought the Commons house for his 


own residence, married the directress, Miss Hannah Sexton, and kept 
on the boarders "at cost." The Commons idea, however, was to be re- 
vived. And in the meantime, faraway students continued to travel by 
stage to "the 'Hill of Science' on fair Andover's brow," as Julia Pierce, 
'41, put it in one of her letters home to Illinois, enjoying alike the 
benefits of town and Academy. 65 

Abbot Academy as Teachers Seminary 

One purpose behind Alary Lyon's scheme was to answer a new demand 
for women teachers. There was nation-building to do and not enough 
men to do it, especially in a field where women's willingness to earn 
low pay had driven schoolmaster's salaries in many villages to "a dollar 
a week and board round." Emma Willard had early proposed that "fe- 
male seminaries" could "place the business of teaching children in [the] 
hands [of unmarried women] now nearly useless to society; and take 
it from those whose services the state wants in many other ways." 66 
Horace Mann endorsed women teachers, since there were never enough 
capable men willing to do the job— and by 1840 60 percent of Massa- 
chusetts' teachers were women. Girls growing to womanhood in small 
towns and rural areas saw schoolteaching as a respectable way to cut 
loose from the circumscribed lives their mothers led, an opportunity 
for travel and personal independence which approximated that avail- 
able to young men in these footloose times. 67 By mid-century, Henry 
Ward Beecher in his novel Norwood would have old Uncle Ebeneezer 
saying to the hero, "No, sir, a man should never be a schoolmaster. 
That's a woman's business." 68 

The West especially needed missionaries of civilization. Catharine 
Beecher thought every intelligent woman should do her stint of teach- 
ing before marriage. 

I can see no other way in which our country can so surely be 
saved from the inroads of vice, infidelity and error. Let the leading 
females of this country become refined, pious and active and the 
salt is scattered through the land to purify and save/ 


These "leading females" were in for a shock. The tough farm boys who 

I came to winter schools could bully a teacher unmercifully; a young 
man was beaten so badly in Almanzo Wilder's upstate New York 
school that he died. 70 Later, Wilder's fiancee, Laura Ingalls, earned 
twenty-five dollars for her family with two terms of teaching five 

44 EARLY DAYS, 1828-1852 

abandoned claim shack in Minnesota. Snow swirled through its cracks 
all winter. The tiny school district was twelve miles from the nearest 
village; Laura had to live in the cabin of the school board chairman, a 
homesteader whose wife hated him, the prairie, and Laura by turns. 
Her bed was separated from the others' by a curtain strung across a 
single dirty room. 71 

Still, the hardships only increased many young women's ardor. Men 
also responded to the need for trained teachers. Samuel Farrar made 
sure that Phillips Academy's Trustees would find an extraordinary edu- 
cator to head the Hill's fledgling Teachers Seminary. By the time of his 
appointment to the post in 1830, Samuel R. Hall, a self-taught minister, 
had already organized the first "normal school" in the nation. His stud- 
ent teachers had helped him run a model elementary school in Con- 
cord, Vermont, while he edited his influential Lectures on School 
Keeping, published in 1829. Hall's Andover students came to the new 
Seminary to prepare for work, not for college. They arranged their 
courses to suit their professional plans, whatever these might be. They 
learned scientific agriculture by keeping their own garden, surveying 
and navigation through field experience, and teaching by daily practice 
in a model school on the Hill. Abbot students might be denied access 
to the Phillips Classical Department, but thev were warmly welcomed 
at many Teachers Seminary classes. 

The enthusiasm for teacher training soon reached Abbot. Samuel 
Hall's daughter attended the Academy (class of 1835). Hall himself 
seems to have been a watchful if distant adviser to Abbot's teachers, 
and Hall's successor as Seminary principal, Reverend Lyman Coleman, 
joined Abbot's Board of Trustees in 1838. In 1839, Timothy Stone 
determined that Abbot should systematically prepare young women 
for teaching. He introduced a three-year Teacher's Course (possibly 
modeled on the Mt. Holyoke curriculum, for they are almost identi- 
cal), which he hoped would become the school's primary offering. It 
included special lectures and practice sessions for teaching candidates, 
in addition to many subjects to be taken in common with the girls 
who were committed to two-year "Latin" or "French" Courses of 
Study. Graduates would thus be qualified for secondary as well as ele- 
mentary school teaching. Stone's first catalogue advertised the new 

The habits formed in all the studies here pursued are designed to 
render Young Ladies qualified to impart as well as to acquire 
knowledge; and for those who wish to prepare themselves to in- 
struct in Academies and Higher Schools, all the facilities are 


furnished to pursue a course as extensive as their circumstances 

Stone himself seems to have been an exacting Principal as well as a 
cheerful one, in spite of his many commitments. He supervised six 
teachers, and kept "perfect order . . . throughout the school," wrote 
Julia Ann Pierce, whose appreciation of Abbot only increased during 
her second year as the teachers-in-training began to arrive in signifi- 
cant numbers. "Much more intellect is displayed" than previously, she 
crowed. 72 

The Abbot "Female Seminary" for teachers, as Stone entitled it, did 
not survive his departure in 1842, except as the theologues' and Phillips 
boys' pet name for Abbot and the students (the "Fern Sems") who at- 
tended there. Possibly Asa Farwell realized that the future of formal 
teacher training lay with the new state-operated normal schools, four 
of which had opened by 1 840. Farrar's and Hall's "educational experi- 
ment" 73 on the Hill also closed, becoming Phillips Academy's English 
Department, a vigorous school that would thrive separately from the 
college preparatory Classics Department until the two were combined 
in the 1870's. But Abbot continued to promise "special assistance ... to 
young ladies who design to engage in teaching." 74 While the faddish 
monitorial system was never used at Abbot, for years there were a few 
student teachers listed under other staff in the catalogue— "girl-teach- 
ers" as the youngest pupils called them. The Academy undoubtedly 
benefited from the reflection on sensible teaching methods that must 
have been stimulated by its own three-year experiment. In addition to 
Susan Hall, hundreds of nineteenth-century Abbot students eventu- 
ally became teachers, some distinguished, many unsung. 

What did they think and talk about, these almost-women and girls, 
and what did they take from Abbot into their adult lives? It is difficult 
to tell. Surely little was said of the joys of chemistry, or pneumatics, or 
Latin grammar. Clothes, yes, though not— so far as one can tell from 
the few letters and journals we have— with the compulsiveness common 
to most of their contemporaries, an obsession to which writers would 
cater incessantly a little later in the century when more girls were al- 
lowed to read fiction. The two Dodge girls, both boarders in 1833, may 
have been unusually apathetic: they found that "the wearisome mono- 
tony of school-girl life" yielded only to the "kindly interest" shown 
them by the three Marland sisters, whose hospitality they formally ac- 
knowledged before returning home. 75 Pleasure in personalities emerges 
in the catty comments written next to the names listed in one student's 

46 EARLY DAYS, 1828-1852 

1840 catalogue: "spoiled by indulgence," she says of one schoolmate; 
"gay, open-hearted joyousness" is another's tag. 

moral and intellectual beauty 

alas! that falsehood should appear in such a lovely form 
a perfect enigma 

I cannot love that which looks so much like affectation 
The mead of willing sympathy thou gave, and oh! 
experience only teaches how sweet it is. 76 

An 1835 alumna told Phebe McKeen how she "and companions equally 
venturesome" had explored the unfinished cellar of the Academy build- 
ing on their hands and knees and washed off at the pump afterwards. 
Students' letters home speak of "delightful walks" in the countryside 
after the close of school at 3:00 o'clock each afternoon, of being too 
busy to sleep enough, of clothes and money needed. 77 

Perhaps Abbot's greatest contribution to its older students' lives was 
the protected space in which they might develop their independent 
powers, free from the pressures for early marriage that alternately ex- 
cited and harassed so many young women of the time. 78 Henrietta 
Jackson never forgot her short term of attendance there. Abbot helped 
prepare her to serve as a common school teacher in Sutton, Massachu- 
setts and as a co-founder of Catskill Female Academy before her mar- 
riage in 1838 to the Reverend Cyrus Hamlin. She shared with her 
husband a profound dedication to Christianity: one month after their 
wedding, they sailed for Constantinople, where Hamlin would found 
Bebek Seminary (and later would help found Robert College) to edu- 
cate Armenian and Turkish Christians in spite of everything the Turk- 
ish officials and their Russian overlords could do to discourage him. 
There Henrietta met up again with several old acquaintances, come 
from Andover to serve the Lord in heathen lands, among them Solomon 
Holt, the son of her Andover landlord and companion of her rides in 
the deacon's chaise to Andover Hill, and William G. Schauffler, her 
Abbot French teacher. Schauffler headed the Evangelical missionaries' 
campaign against official opposition; at one point, he went to the Rus- 
sian Ambassador to protest the capture and deportation to Siberia of 
Cyrus' and Henrietta's Armenian language tutor, Mesrobe Taliatine. 
The Ambassador was emphatic. "The Emperor of Russia, who is my 
master, will never allow Protestantism to set its foot in Turkey," he 
told his visitor. Schauffler bowed low and replied, "Your Excellency, 
the kingdom of Christ, who is my Master, will never ask the Emperor 
of all the Russians where it may set its foot." 79 

The Armenian lessons soon resumed. Henrietta's friends were sure 


she was the first American woman ever to learn the language. "It is 
very difficult," she wrote her old Abbot friend Margaret Woods Law- 
rence in 1839, " an d m ust be learned without the help of grammar or 
dictionary. Do you think I am discouraged? It is not time yet. I ... am 
now reading in short syllables. Such choking sounds you never heard." 80 

Henrietta's mother was certain her daughter had been sent by God 
to "the place where the great battle would be fought between Michael 
and his angels, and the dragon . . . where the mighty hosts of Gog and 
Magog will be slain." 81 But from the Hamlins' viewpoint, the holy war 
was an endless series of skirmishes to win over an alien people one by 
one. Plague, fleas, and stubborn officials were antagonists more immed- 
iate than Gog and A4agog. Only two extraordinarily resourceful people 
could make a home in such a land. The Sultan having put all Protes- 
tants under the ban, none could even find work, much less a Christian 
education. The local Greek patriarch encouraged the Hamlins' neigh- 
bors to drive them away by any means, as they had successfully driven 
the last missionary from Bebek. Though Henrietta and Cyrus had 
moved into the Seminary building to protect it and its students, small 
boys threw stones at Henrietta as she passed through the village on her 
household errands; stones smashed the tiles on their roof at night. In 
spite of this, the couple persisted. Not for nothing had Cyrus grown 
up fatherless on a stony Maine farm. He set up a workshop where 
students might make stoves, rat traps, and other goods for sale to keep 
themselves fed and clothed. Henrietta opened their home to all visitors, 
often providing sick-bed care to invalid missionaries. Curious Armen- 
ians, Jews, and Greeks would come to watch Cyrus' "Satanic" ma- 
chines one week, would shyly play with the Hamlins' merry little 
daughter, "Henrietta the Second," the next, and often enough attend 
Bible classes, English language classes or Protestant services the third. 

Henrietta became fluent in modern Greek, which she found a "beau- 
tiful and cultivated language." 82 Gone was the sense of purposelessness 
that had dogged her since her term at Abbot. She taught three of Cy- 
rus' youngest students herself, served as chief stewardess and counselor 
for the entire Seminary of over forty boarding students, and cared for 
her "fat, rosy-cheeked little girl ... the daily delight of her mother's 
heart, and the hourly hindrance to her business." 83 While Cyrus' ad- 
ministrative duties increased, Henrietta quietly won the support of the 
leading Greek and Turkish families of Bebek. The community came to 
accept the pioneers, even to rely on them to protect its weaker mem- 
bers from the cruelty and excesses of their own officials. 

Four more daughters were born, three of whom would later follow 
Henrietta the Second to Abbot Academy for their secondary educa- 

48 EARLY DAYS, 1828-1852 

tion. Wife and children sustained Hamlin— by their playfulness as much 
as by their practical help— through the years of complex, often dan- 
gerous work until Henrietta's weak health overcame her, and she died 
of tuberculosis on the island of Rhodes in 1850. But the daughters she 
had raised with such love continued to keep the family's cheerful 
home, and to care for their small half-sisters after their father's second 
wife also died. They grew up to attend Abbot and teach school as their 
mother had done, to marry missionaries or physicians, and carry on 
their mother's work. 

'A\fery Liberal Series of Studies" 

A woman should study not to shine, but to act. 
Catharine Beecher 

The 1830's and 40's were exciting times for educators. No longer was 
secondary-school teaching merely an extension of the ministry or an 
"adventure" effort by a lone pedagogue who advertised his or her ser- 
vices weekly for perusers of urban newspapers; it had finally become a 
distinct, self-conscious profession centered in private or public institu- 
tions. Academies had proved to be respectable supplements to parental 
instruction in a society where the discipline of farm work or craft 
affected ever fewer young people. Even the financial situation was 
changing for young women's schools: poverty was only a likeli- 
hood now, not a foregone conclusion. Several new institutions such as 
Wheaton Seminary and Alt. Holyoke Female Seminary opened in the 
1830's with endowments of over $20,000 that would support matricula- 
tion of poorer students. The new Oberlin Collegiate Institute admitted 
both black and white students, and allowed women to attend classes in 
"selected higher departments." 1 

Curriculum offerings in many academies and colleges reflected the 
democratization of learning. Said Robert H. Bishop, the first president 
of Ohio's Miami University (proudly advertised as a "Farmer's Col- 
lege"), "Literary and scientific knowledge is no longer to be the ex- 
clusive property of a few professional men. It is to become the com- 
mon property of the mass of the human family." 2 Massachusetts boasted 
few local grammar schools, but these were beginning to respond to the 
state "high-school law" of 1827, which required them to add "general 
history, bookkeeping, algebra, geometry, surveying, rhetoric and logic" 
to their already mandated courses in classics and English. Though Yale 
professor James Kingsley and President Jeremiah Day stoutly defended 
the classical curriculum in their famous Yale Report of 1828, shoring up 
the arguments of the traditionalists at Phillips Academy for the next 
half century, Abbot and other academies offered far more than the 
"Latin, Greek and a bit of Mathematics" that one Charles Phelps Taft 
received at Phillips in 1859. 3 


EARLY DAYS, 1828-1852 

Mental Discipline and Motherhood 
Abbot's early curriculum is outlined in the school's 1844 catalogue. 


First Year 

{Greenleaf 's Arithmetic. 
Murray's Grammar. 
Modern and Ancient 
Ancient History. 

(Arithmetic finished. 
Grammar Continued. 
Watts on the Mind. 
Modern History. 

{Mrs. Lincoln's Botany. 
Parsing select passages of 
Linear Drawing. 

Third Year 

Second Year 

(Day's Algebra. 
Lane's Physiology. 
Smellie's Philosophy of Nat- 
ural History. 
Drawing and Pencil Shading. 

(Algebra finished. 
Newman's Rhetoric. 
Analysis of Cowper's Task. 

Euclid finished. 
Spring I Gray's Chemistry. 
Term \ Burritt's Geography of the 

Hitchcock's Geology. 



Olmsted's Philosophy. 
Whately's Rhetoric. 
Upham's Intellectual Philosophy. 
Analysis of Thomson's Seasons. 

Wilkin's Astronomy. 
Marsh's Eccl. History. 
Analysis of Paradise Lost. 
Butler's Analogy. 

(Whately's Logic. 
Wayland's Moral Philosophy. 
Paley's Natural Theology. 
Landscape Drawing and Painting. 


Latin— Weld's Latin Lessons; Andrews and Stoddard's Latin Grammar, An- 
drews' Latin Reader; Krebs' Guide for Writing Latin; Nepos; Cicero de 
Senectute et Amicitia; Virgil; Sallust. 

Greek— Goodrich's Greek Lessons, Kiihner's Elementary Greek Grammar; 
Greek Reader; Xenophon's Memorabilia; Homer's Iliad. 
French— CoWofs Levizac's French Grammar; Collot's French Reader; French 


Introduction; De L'Allemagne par Madame De Stael; Telemachus; Charles 

XII; Henriade. 

Italian— Bachi's Italian Grammar; Graglia's Italian Dictionary; Scella di Prose 

Italiane Conversazione Italiana. 

German— Ollendorf's Grammar; Nohden's Dictionary; Follen's German 

Reader; Schiller; DeWette's German Bible. 

Young Ladies are admitted to the privileges of the Institution to 
pursue the studies as marked out above, so far as their time and 
circumstances will allow. 

The subjects and texts here described differ little from those listed 
in the earliest catalogues, and match the course Asa Farwell continued 
through 1852. The catalogue goes on to advertise the lectures in chem- 
istry and geology that all members of the school might attend at the 
English Department of Phillips Academy, successor to the Teachers' 
Seminary (although Phillips' Classical Department students were se- 
verely discouraged from doing the same). Each language bears a charge 
of 20 cents a week over the $5.oo-per-term regular tuition for those 
students who undertake this "speediest and surest method of attaining 
that discipline which is the main object of all study." Vocal music and 
drawing are each about 20 cents extra too, and the twenty-four piano 
lessons offered every term cost $10.00. 

Most of the required texts were widely used in academies and col- 
leges of the time. Watts' On the Mind, Butler's Analogy of Natural and 
Revealed Religion, Almira Lincoln's Botany* Paley's Natural Theol- 
ogy, and Milton's Paradise Lost—aM were universal favorites in the bet- 
ter schools. Butler and Paley were staples for upperclassmen at Har- 
vard, Yale, and Dartmouth through 1828. Abbot also experimented with 
some ambitious texts less often offered. Francis Wayland's Moral Phil- 
osphy was popular in men's colleges, but rarely used by academies in 
its 1837 college edition. Smellie's Philosophy of Natural History delin- 
eated a sequence of the emergence of animal forms that anticiapted 
Darwin's Origin of the Species. Colburn's Arithmetic, used throughout 
Abbot's first decade, abandoned mere memory work to emphasize "the 
processes by which the answer is obtained, and the reason for it." 5 Har- 
riet Woods had always disliked arithmetic, but at Abbot, she wrote, "I 
became enamored of mental arithmetic, and carried my Colburn's Se- 
quel back and forth from school, trying to puzzle my father and broth- 
ers over the examples I had conquered." 6 Another student (Abbot 
1840) said Miss Parker "taught me to love geometry above my natural 
food." 7 

52 EARLY DAYS, I 828-1852 

We don't know whether iMiss Parker used conic sections cut from 
turnips to illustrate solid geometry as did Emma Willard, but she un- 
doubtedly agreed with Mrs. Williard that Mathematics was "of prime 
importance because it would train women to think for themselves in an 
orderly way, help them impersonalize their problems and solve them on 
the basis of abstract truth. Women . . . must learn to reason and face a 
subject." 8 The "mental discipline" imparted by math— as by language 
study— is offered in the 1830's and 40's as prime justification for almost 
any subject that might appear initially irrelevant to almost any stud- 
ent. Even "a severe course of the most persistent gerund-grinding," 9 
such as Phillips headmasters Adams and Taylor served up for sixty 
years, is supposed to "call into vigorous exercise all faculties of the 
soul." 10 Botany, writes Mrs. Lincoln in the text read by Abbot girls, 
teaches use of "the laws of association [and] system," which are es- 
sential "not only in the grave and elevated departments of science, but 
.... in the most common concerns and operations of ordinary life." 
Botany thus "has, without a doubt, a tendency to induce in the mind 
the habit and love of order." 11 Nor is music to be studied for its own 
sake, but because its "cultivation . . . has a direct tendency to soften the 
ferocious passions, meliorate the manners, and socialize the discordant 
feelings of man." 12 Any exacting subject will teach concentration and 
strengthen the memory; it will build the power of judgment, without 
which "no lady can make a custard or a cooky," says John Todd in 
his widely read book The Daughter at School. 1 * 

The "mental discipline" doctrine was as nice an excuse to teach what 
you please as was the "transfer theory" of the early twentieth century. 
There's no doubt, however, that it shored up confidence in the value of 
difficult subjects for women. Not everyone agreed with it. Many tra- 
ditionalists continued to feel that "the current apology that whatever 
is good mental discipline for the male sex, is equally so for the female, 
assumes false ground," as one critic wrote when the argument was still 

A woman's station in life is one of moral usefulness . . . The 
studies, then, which should preponderate in female education are 
those which affect the disposition rather than the intellect . . . Mor- 
al excellence should be the great object of all human education; 
but this is peculiarly true in that of woman, whose offices in life, 
and whose influence on society, are those of a purer and gentler 
being. 14 

After all, this "purer and gentler being" was almost sure to be a moth- 


er. Her motherhood must be wisely informed, for "the soul of her in- 
fant is uncovered before her. She knows that the images which she 
enshrines in that unpolluted sanctuary must rise before her at the bar 
of doom." 15 

But Education for Motherhood could be wonderfully extended also. 
It embraced the natural sciences, through which a woman could teach 
her little ones observational skills and appreciation of God's creation; 
it sanctioned the reading and discussion of fine literature. Said William 
Russell, Abbot's prestigious Oral Reading teacher for over ten years, 
in an address to the school in 1843: "to recount orally the topics of a 
useful book is one of the best preparations for intelligent and useful 
conversation . . . To the female sex, as destined to furnish the mothers 
and teachers of the human race in the stage of infancy, the power of 
communicating appropriately, is of inexpressible value ... If the mother 
is silent, the soul of the child by her side lies torpid and helpless." 16 
Most important was study of the mind itself through logic and "Intel- 
lectual Philosophy," guaranteed to help women analyze their children's 
changing mental patterns and fit maternal instruction to each phase. 
Thus Abbot's young women spent much of their time on ethics and 
philosophy in various guises. 

Science for Souls 

Christian educators like Mrs. Lincoln and Francis Wayland thought of 
the mind as an extensor of God's original Creation. According 
to Mrs. Lincoln: 

The Universe, as composed of mind and matter, gives rise to 
various sciences. The SUPREME BEING we believe to be im- 
material, or pure mind. The knowledge of mind may be con- 
sidered under two general heads. 

1. THEOLOGY, or that science which comprehends our views of 
the Deity and our duties to Him. 

2. PHILOSOPHY OF THE HUMAN MIND, or metaphysics, 
analyzes and arranges its faculties. The knowledge of matter 
which is the science that investigates the mind of man, and 

is included under the general term, Physics, may be considered 
under three general heads. 

1. NATURAL PHILOSOPHY, which considers the effects of 
bodies acting upon each other by their weight and motion. 

2. CHEMISTRY, in which the properties and mutual action of 
the elementary atoms are investigated. 

54 KARLY DAYS, 1828-1852 

3. NATURAL HISTORY, which considers the external forms 
and characters of objects, and arranges them in classes. 17 

Clearly the study of both mind and matter was a sacred duty. On the 
other hand, no one pretended that Abbot students' "knowledge of mat- 
ter" was deep or specialized. Homemade science demonstration equip- 
ment was the rule in all academies except Phillips Exeter; physics labs 
were rare even in colleges. It was difficult to square the study of phy- 
siology with "female delicacy." (Characteristically, Emma Willard did 
her best: her response to the protests of shocked parents was to paste 
heavy paper over all the offending illustrations in the physiology text.) 
No Abbot principal that we know of conducted botanizing walks as 
enthusiastically as educational reformers were advocating them. But 
field trips were frequent, and the daily excursions up the Hill to the 
lectures in botany, geology, or other sciences stimulated high interest 
among some girls, if one can assume that alumnae recollections are 
colored as much by the lecturers' dramatic demonstrations as by the 
presence of young men in the hall. 18 Samuel Brown imparted his love 
of astronomy and meteorology to several students, one of whom wrote 
Miss McKeen that since her Abbot days, "everything connected with 
the heavens is always interesting." This alumna had been "terribly 
afraid of lightning till Mr. Brown gave us a lecture one evening." 19 

Pious Andover had a special problem with science. Scientific study 
might be an amateur affair in most academies— the scientists themselves 
were often amateurs— but some scientific findings were seriously threat- 
ening religious orthodoxy. Moses Stuart, to whom most scholarly di- 
lemmas were food and drink, finally rejected the tortuous analogies 
drawn by Butler and many others between the thousand, then million 
years of geological evolution and each biblical day of Creation. Stuart 
declared that a man must choose between geology and religion. Mrs. 
Lincoln had an easier time with botany, for she had no doubt that its 
study "naturally leads to greater love and reverence for the Deity; [for 
those] who see in the natural world the workings of His power, can 
look abroad, and adopting the language of a christian poet, exclaim, 
'My Father made them all.' " 20 Similarly, William Paley could with 
good conscience pack his Natural Theology with comparative anato- 
my, botany, entomology, physics, and astronomy once he had intro- 
duced the Deity as First Cause and Supreme Watchmaker of the uni- 
verse. He concludes that because science can only hint at the character 
of this "stupendous Being," 21 we must depend on Revelation to com- 
plete our understanding. If only one did not look closely, science and 
religion might stand side by side, but tough-minded reconciliation of 
the two was more difficult every year. 

"a very liberal series of studies" 55 

Pedagogy in a moral universe 

Abbot students benefited daily from the pedagogical revolution of the 
1830's and i84o's. Class recitations were no longer memoriter reproduc- 
tions of an entire Latin grammar book. (Little Josiah Quincy, an eight- 
eenth-century Phillips student, was sent back to his seat twenty times 
to get it word perfect.) William Woodbridge and Abbot's William 
Russell had traveled abroad to observe the Swiss educator Johann Pes- 
talozzi at work in his model school. Their ]ournal of American Educa- 
tion, begun in 1826, was filled with progressive suggestions for teach- 
ers. "Let the obsolete system hitherto followed be entirely abandoned," 
they implored as early as 1827. "Make instruction interesting." Make it 
"practical; let its relation to business be constantly pointed out; let it 
be mingled with business . . . Let the natural progress of the mind be 
consulted. Let knowledge commence at home, and gradually extend 
itself abroad." 22 This meant beginning with the concrete, and moving 
toward the abstract. To Abbot Principal Stone, it meant opening a 
"store" for his younger pupils, to make mental arithmetic a natural part 
of playful financial transactions. In composition, it was supposed to 
eliminate favorite essay topics such as "The Right Improvement of 
Time," or "Happiness." Composition should not be "practised as a sep- 
arate art, as a thing that can exist apart from the thoughts it is meant to 
convey." 23 

By 1836 Abbot students were hand-copying and issuing their own 
magazine, The Workbasket. The November 2nd issue contains a stir- 
ring story of Greek revolutionaries. The heroic Lysander's children are 
torn from their peaceful rural existence (where every evening, seated 
before their dwelling, Xanthe and her brother Alexis "unite their artless 
voices in a Greek song") by Turkish marauders, who sell them to slave 
dealers in retaliation for their father's triumphs as partisan leader. It 
also announces 

The Thimble Robbery 

Beware!! Last Friday one of the members of this school had her 
"indispensible" broken open by one of her associates and despoiled 
of its contents. Money to the amount of 37V2 ^ was taken . . . and 
a silver thimble. 

That did come close to home. Woodbridge and Russell would have 
been pleased. 

For all the reformers' labors, Abbot teachers' duty to promote mor- 
al character retarded full acceptance of the new methods. Harriet 
Woods, made by "the pretty Miss LeRow" to write a composition ("On 

$6 EARLY DAYS, 1828-1852 

Charity") thought her "brain must have been black and blue with 
[that] painful effort. I'm sure my eyes smarted with the effort to keep 
back tears." She finally produced a single sentence: "Charity is a good 
thing." 24 "No activity [was| outside the holy purpose of the overarch- 
ing covenant," writes Richard Sewall of nineteenth-century New En- 
gland puritanism, and every skill taught Abbot girls had to be ac- 
companied by a moral lesson. 25 Abbot teachers could not bring them- 
selves to throw away their grammar books, as progressives advised. 
After Murray's Abridged English Grammar had brought the student 
through a tortuous passage of twenty-two rules pertaining to the In- 
finitive, Indicative, Imperative, and Potential moods, it offered pages 
of ill- written sentences to correct, such as these didactic gems: 

To do good to them that hate us, and on no occasion to seek re- 
venge, is the duty of a Christian, [pp. 178-179] 

Each of the sexes should keep within their peculiar bounds, and 
content themselves with the advantages of their particular dis- 
tricts, [p. 13 1 ] 26 

History especially, must elevate and inspire. It was too bad, said one 
early critic, that history books were so often written in "formal, un- 
interesting style," which tended to "deaden the spirit of patriotism 
rather than excite it." 27 William Russell joined the reformers who 
railed against historical "abridgements and compends." 28 Unfortunate- 
ly, to inspire may be to distort. It is hard for the late twentieth-cen- 
tury skeptic to understand what credible inspiration can be drawn from 
those "ample" volumes Russell endorses, which present history as "the 
great treasury of just sentiment, the grand depository of character, the 
moral record of the world." 29 

The rhetoric of history and English books often became so elevated 
that it left reality behind. Most texts of the time suffered sadly from 
their "lofty diction," which students inevitably absorbed into their own 
essays. Said a graduate of Coburn's Classical Institute in Maine: "Every 
man became a mortal; a horse, a courser or a steed; a glass, a crystal 
vase; the moon, Pale Diana." 30 The chief aim of many an instructor 
was to teach his students to write like John A4ilton. 

The new pedagogues insisted that all teaching techniques reflect 
sound values. Abbot followed the usual practice of evaluating students' 
learning through public, oral examinations. For these, remembers Miss 
Theodosia Stockbridge, 

the school was attired in uniform, a unique feature of which was 
small black lace caps trimmed with narrow pink lustring ribbon 


... [At the] examinations, both dreaded and enjoyed by the pupils, 
the upper hall, door-way, vestibule, and stairway were literally 
thronged with Theological, Latin, and English students [from the 
Hill], with friends from the village and friends from abroad. One 
of the most formidable ordeals was the drawing of geometrical 
designs on the blackboards . . . also piano solos, given from the 
center of [the] platform, and facing the audience. 31 

The Academy boys kept their own texts open on their knees to check 
every girl's answer for themselves. Examinations made some educators 
uneasy: they did not square with the prevailing expectations of wom- 
en, who, unless they were Quakers or (worse) actresses, should not 
even wish to speak before an audience. One skeptic charged that all 
exhibitions "were calculated to foster pride, to raise [the scholars] in 
their own view to men and women before their time." 32 They encour- 
aged emulation, always a suspect motive in the nineteenth century. Like 
the intricate report cards used at Boston Girls' Latin school, they fos- 
tered "rivalry and ambition," said Zilpah Grant. 33 Nevertheless, Abbot 
continued to hold them throughout its first quarter century. 

Abbot's curriculum was above all flexible. Students might "fail" 
again and again, yet not be asked to leave. In languages they could go 
as far as they were able beyond the prescribed texts. There were pre- 
requisites, but no requirements; it must have been a disappointment to 
Abbot's founders that only four girls on the 1831 school rolls had taken 
enough Latin to be eligible for Greek. Students could enter for a term, 
then quit. Eighty-three girls attended Abbot some time in 1839, DUt tne 
Spring term roll was only sixty-four. All female academies shared the 
problem of the "flitting scholar." Of 1600 students attending Derry and 
Ipswich under Zilpah Grant, only 156 received diplomas. Abbot gave 
no diploma at all until 1853. 

Reformers bewailed in prose and verse the shallow exposure to a 
multitude of subjects encouraged by the average female academy. 
Many felt the more fashionable schools were fitting out intellectual 
dolls who would know nothing of women's domestic duties. "Madame 
Cancan's" seminary was a popular caricature. There, Madame Cancan 

all her skill in moulding her pets 

Into very-genteelly-got-up marionettes. 

Yes! Puppet's the word; for there's nothing inside 

But a clockwork of vanity, fashion and pride! 

Puppets warranted sound, that without any falter 

When wound-up will go— just as far as the altar; 

58 KARLY DAYS, 1828-1852 

But when once the cap's donned with the matronly border, 
Lo! the quiet machine goes at once out of order. 34 

Because of Abbot's solid course offerings and its generally serious at- 
mosphere, Abbot students largely avoided these pitfalls. In addition, the 
"system of allowing everyone to do that which was right in her own 
eyes" was exactly what many girls needed. 35 It was only because Eliza- 
beth Emerson so loved wild flowers that Mr. Farwell reluctantly al- 
lowed her to take Botany, but she did well in it, and found it an "un- 
bounded delight." When Elizabeth had at last gained the " 'mental dis- 
cipline' . . . for that truly advanced study, Greenleaf's Arithmetic, the 
progress through its every problem was a constant rapture." 36 Still, to 
several of Abbot's Trustees, flexibility implied weakness. For all Abbot's 
early successes, they looked forward to the day when their Academy 
could boast a fixed course of study leading to a diploma. 

"To Form the Immortal Mind" 

Abbot's constitution made the school responsible for each student's 
soul. Sunday church was required for boarders, the morning service at 
Andover's South Church, whose Congregationalism was guaranteed 
pure, the afternoon service at the Seminary chapel on the Hill, where 
it was purer still. Though Phillips students sat just behind the Abbot 
contingent in both churches, all communication was proscribed; older 
girls must "write the sermon" for the principal afterwards to prove they 
had listened. ("Our Sabbaths had not the element of rest," recalled 
Julia Ann Griggs, Abbot 1839-41, later on.) 37 Wednesday was "free 
day," but on Wednesday mornings and evenings, roommates were re- 
quired to leave each other in solitude for a "half-hour" of medita- 
tion. Every student received weekly religious instruction. Each one of 
Abbot's nineteenth-century preceptors would have agreed with Princi- 
pal Samuel Brown, who told a Dartmouth Centennial audience in 1869 

education, to be truly and in the largest sense beneficient, must 
also be religious; must affect that which is deepest in man; must 
lead him, if it can, to the contemplation of truths most personal, 
central, and essential; must open to him some of those depths where 
the soul swings helplessly in the midst of experiences and powers 
unfathomable and infinite, where the intellect falters and hesitates, 
and finds no solution till it yields to faith. 38 


On Andover Hill in 1829, "yielding to faith" meant the personal con- 
version that Samuel Jackson was urging on his sister Henrietta: a cli- 
mactic confession of one's utter depravity and helplessness as Adam's 
seed, along with realization of one's total dependence on God and His 
Saviour Son. In a much-thumbed book called the Pastor's Daughter, 
found in an Abbot student's library, a minister tells his child's story. 
"Reader," warns its introduction, "this small volume conducts you to 
the lowly tomb of Susan Amelia, from which, though dead, she speak- 
eth, and bids you PREPARE TO MEET YOUR GOD." 39 Susan's pri- 
vate journal shows how she first resisted "surrender to God" at the age 
of eighteen: "March 19, 1842. Spent an hour this morning in reading a 
novel; of such works I am too fond ... Of course my Bible for this 
morning was neglected. . . . Would to God I could keep my resolu- 
tions." Susan tries to convert her friend Fanny while she works on her- 
self. "Many and severe are the conflicts I have with the destroyer of 
souls," she writes Fanny; "oftentimes I am nearly overcome, but my 
Deliverer appears." 

Though ill, Susan resolves to become a missionary. She prays every 
Monday "for the persecuted Christians of Madagascar," every Tuesday 
"for the Queen of Madagascar." She admits she is a sinner, and that 
"life is a vapor." Susan's imminent death rallies her friends to Christ's 
cause, and they pray for a "holy submission" to match hers. Finally 
Susan dies happy, called away in "perfect peace" to Jesus. 40 

The evangelical Protestant's concern for "the heart and its motiva- 
tions" combined with his [or her] sense of each soul's infinite worth 
could lend strength to precarious lives. 41 Good parents began putting 
pressure on their children to make their "holy submission" at age seven 
or eight; but the most reliable conversions took place after puberty, 
stimulated by the young person's general anxiety over physical-emo- 
tional changes and life plans. Conversion thus often served to certify 
the converted as an adult, and it is not surprising that secondary edu- 
cators felt it their duty to assist in the process. 42 Mary Lyon personally 
brought a quarter of all her Mt. Holyoke students to Christ. Phillips 
Headmaster Adams was a "revival man"; Taylor also "savingly con- 
verted" many of his boys. 43 The spring of 1840 was a season of power- 
ful religious enthusiasm at Abbot: with the help of some of the good 
women of the town, who visited and prayed with the girls on recrea- 
tion days, about fifty conversions were accomplished. Andover's gen- 
eral enthusiasm for conversion could be overdone. Describing Mrs. 
Porter's "zeal in good works," Samuel Jackson's -daughter Susannah re- 
counts a story told her by one of Headmaster Adams' daughters, an 

6o K A R L Y 1) A Y S , I 8 2 8 - I 8 5 2 

Abbot student at the time: "As she was passing, Mrs. Porter called her 
in, took her to an upper room, locked her in, saying that herself and 
Miss Mary Hasseltine from Bradford would spend the day praying for 
her, and she must pray too. No wonder the little girl yielded more tears 
than prayers, and ever after took the opposite side of the street in her 
trips down town." 44 Yet there was no doubt that to "become a Chris- 
tian" at Abbot (or Mt. Holyoke, or Hartford, or wherever) was to 
confirm the institution's worth as well as one's own. 

But the conversion experience could not be had for the asking. Catha- 
rine Beecher struggled in vain for her own and her fiance's souls: all 
her father's and brothers' urgings only brought her to nervous collapse 
after months of family effort. Finally, she, along with many other 
Americans, rejected the exacting system that condemned the uncon- 
verted to join still-born infants and uncatechized children in Hell. 45 One 
of Miss Beecher's critics wrote that if St. Paul were on earth, he would 
"discourage the female sex, however gifted and learned, from mixing 
themselves in theological and ecclesiastical controversies." 46 Andover 
professor Leonard Woods argued more respectfully with her in print. 47 
To no avail. Ironically, the conversions stimulated by revival move- 
ments blurred the doctrinal questions which had been so fervently ar- 
gued on Andover Hill ever since the Seminary opened. 48 By the mid- 
1840's, many believed with Miss Beecher that Grace could be won by 
steady good works even though no dramatic inner submission had oc- 
curred. Evidence of one's Christianity was no longer an inward change 
of heart, but a social style. 49 The local pastor, defender against hellfTre, 
seemed less important now. "Conscience" and "character" began to dis- 
place conversion as the dominant religious and educational concern. 

These changes must have impressed Abbot girls with a new sense of 
the Christian woman's opportunities. With the (all-male) ministry's slip 
in status came a gain for women. Not only did women convert in larg- 
er numbers than men; they were considered peculiarly adapted to 
God's work. 50 As mothers, they would "educate not merely a vir- 
tuous member of society, but a Christian, an angel, a servant of the 
Most High." 51 Samuel Jackson's early intuitions about women's special 
function were being borne out in new social realities. While men grew 
ever busier with worldly affairs, women had to prepare to become the 
mainstays of the church, as well as of a Christian home where children 
would be kept from "the contagion" of money-making as long as pos- 
sible. 52 Mothers took over the leading of evening prayers in many fami- 
lies. Increasingly, church work and missionary activity were accepted 
as ways for women to use their talents outside the home— as legitimate 
and safely conservative escapes from domesticity. Andover Theological 


Seminary opposed women's leadership in parish affairs long after mid- 
western revivalists began inviting it, yet the theologues gladly accepted 
the tuition support raised for them by church ladies in their own par- 
ishes, and after ordination welcomed women's willingness to carry the 
main burden of Sunday School teaching. 53 It was an ironic affair, this 
alliance between the minister and the lady, for together they were 
expected to function as "champions of sensibility"; yet the lady's in- 
volvement undermined the minister's traditional hegemony in subtle 
ways. 54 Her Sunday Schools continued to draw emphasis away from 
the conversion process which those like Jackson worked so hard to in- 
spire, for they taught not sudden enlightenment but gradual self-mas- 
tery. 55 "These women will be in the pulpit next!" exclaimed a New 
England critic of the new Sunday Schools; 56 and the Massachusetts 
Council of Congregationalist Ministers formally warned women against 
carrying their Christian zeal into reform movements that men should 
lead: "The power of woman is her dependence, flowing from the con- 
sciousness of that weakness which God has given her for her protec- 
tion." 57 But the clergy could not have it both ways, simultaneously in- 
viting women's help within the church and suppressing the radical mes- 
sages of Christianity. Women church members became troopers for 
temperance crusades which ministers like Jackson initiated and led; in 
the West Parish their children made up a "cold water army" and pa- 
raded round the parish of a Saturday under the church ladies' eyes. 
This was all very well until the confidence that women gained from 
their parish labors was applied to more controversial public affairs 
such as abolitionism, an issue that would involve many West Parish 
women and ultimately split the congregation in two. 

The American woman's field for Christian action was steadily widen- 
ing, then. The metaphysical texts Abbot students read seem to have 
been chosen to follow Catharine Beecher's view that action should 
take precedence over erudition. "Forming the immortal mind" meant 
subjecting conscience and character to intellectual scrutiny. Abbot 
girls studied Francis Wayland's exhaustive rationale of conscience and 
its God-given authority, instead of the terrifying sermons of Jonathan 
Edwards with which the theologues were regaled during their meals. 
Julia Ann Pierce, studying Wayland with twenty-three classmates 
under a second-year theologue, thought him "very hard"; 58 but at least 
Wayland found a neat way around the conflict between religion and 
science which hounded the Orthodox. He believed that the startling 
progress of contemporary science was only more evidence "that a 
tendency to universal extension has been impressed upon [each branch 
of knowledge] by its Creator." 59 Religion remains primary because it 

6l EARLY DAYS, 1828-1852 

"fosters a love of truth," wrote Wayland. 60 To prove how this reason- 
ing works, he deftly blended Biblical sanction with liberal thought in 
one grand system of "practical ethics," justifying gradual abolition of 
slavery, enjoyment of sexual intercourse within marriage, liberty of the 
press, and a multitude of benevolent projects to aid the poor. His 
twentieth-century editor, Joseph Blau, points to the "arrogance in the 
way in which Wayland uses God as the cosmic guarantor of whatever 
Wayland believes." 61 Surely Abbot's teachers sympathized, however. 
In their less pretentious ways, most of them were doing the same thing. 

Abbot reached the i85o's with solid experience on which to build. 
Despite flitting scholars and flitting principals, its course of study had 
remained remarkably stable. Compromises with the original high aca- 
demic ideals were surely made, but Abbot remained, said William 
Russell with emphasis, an academy, it allowed its students the rewards 
of "uninterrupted mental application" rather than diverting them to 
study of needlework or other domestic arts. Russell felt proud of 
Abbot's having avoided the "universal ridicule" that greeted the "en- 
cyclopedic" curricula of many girls' schools. He praised Abbot's con- 
cern with "actual proficiency" and its scorn of "extensive and perhaps 
superficial cultivation." 62 

Furthermore, Abbot was clear of debt at last. Upon receipt of 
Madam Sarah Abbot's legacy in 1850, Samuel Farrar, that "good old, 
wrinkled, immemorial squire," as Oliver Wendell Holmes called him, 
resigned from the Board of Trustees. 63 "Our debts are all honorably 
paid," Farrar wrote his colleagues. He blessed "a kind Providence" for 
sustaining him through "so many years of anxious solicitude," and al- 
lowing him to witness "so happy a result." 64 As one of Abbot's chief 
creditors, Farrar must have felt even more relief than he expressed. A 
last-minute drama over the Sarah Abbot legacy bears recounting, for 
it had put $2000 of the expected $10,000 in jeopardy. Soon after 
Madam Abbot finally died in 1848. Lucretia Johnson, widow of the 
short-lived and highly promising Phillips Principal Osgood Johnson, 
made a $2000 claim on the Abbot estate to compensate her for her care 
of the old lady during the last three years of her life. 65 Madam Abbot 
was "intemperate" as well as ill, claimed Mrs. Johnson, and thus could 
do almost nothing for herself. 66 The widow Johnson lived just across 
Main and School streets from Mrs. Abbot in what is now called "Sa- 
maritan House" in her honor; she had kept her family out of the poor 
farm by nursing sick students and townspeople for small pay. Good 
neighbor she had been, but she had to be paid. 67 

Mrs. Johnson never got her $2,000. All Abbot's Trustees rallied to 

i i 


protect the founding donor's reputation and the school's legacy. Mrs. 
Abbot had told her friends, "I pay Mrs. Johnson as I go along,"— 
though Mrs. Johnson disputed this. The friends insisted that she had 
also given Mrs. Johnson clothes, furniture, and household goods; most 
important, she had paid some or all of the Phillips Academy tuition for 
one of the Johnson boys after his father's death. It seems that Madam 
Abbot thought Mrs. Johnson's care of her was done "as a neighborly 
kindness," and never worried herself about formal payment. 68 Wit- 
nesses for the Probate Court insisted, furthermore, that they "never saw 
Madam Abbot disguised" [in drink] or "intoxicated" although she did 
use "spirits." 69 If old Sarah Abbot was a little too fond of liquor, we 
shall never know it for certain. 

So Abbot got its $10,109.04 and paid off its debt of twenty-two 
years, and the documents that revealed more than Abbot's later ad- 
mirers wanted to know of a good woman's failing years were tucked 
away in a cupboard. Whatever we may think of the justice of the 
outcome, the efficiency with which the case was resolved and then 
covered up testifies to the strength of the Academy's corporate char- 
acter and of those wily, faithful Trustees who came with it. This was 
no fly-by-night "adventure" school, but an institution with plans to 
continue, come what might. 70 


Solid Acquirements, 1852-1892 

In the forty years from 1852 to 1892, Abbot Academy passed from un- 
certain adolescence to adulthood. The local day school with its catch- 
as-catch-can arrangements for out-of-town students became a nation- 
ally known boarding school. The parade of men principals gave way 
to a shorter parade of women; then in 1859 tne Misses Philena and 
Phebe McKeen arrived. The sisters were to make Abbot their home, 
and give it the rest of their lives. 

Before the school could fullv benefit from the McKeens' committed 
leadership, however, there was a period of swift, unexpected transi- 
tions: Abbot had to face a local crisis of competition from a new pub- 
lic high school, then the national crisis of Civil War. Meanwhile, the 
Trustees met the happier challenge of finding and keeping the McKeen 
sisters. The McKeens ushered in a kind of golden age full three dec- 
ades long during which Abbot prospered as never before, an era to 
which, later, more harried generations would look back with both 
envy and gratitude. 

Mid-Century Transitions 

We were told by the historian that 

the age of lords has gone out, and 

the age of ladies has come in. 

J. B. Bittinger, 1879 

The 1850's were pivotal years for New England education, as they 
were for the life of the nation. Like most private academies, Abbot 
glided easily into them down the way established by the confident (if 
penurious) forties; but the year i860 found the school changed, forced 
by circumstances into a new mold. 

Much happened that the Trustees could not have foreseen. They 
had planned, for example, to replace Asa Farwell with yet another 
man. "Andover was a masculine place . . . used to eminent men," wrote 
Elizabeth Stuart Phelps of this time. "At the subject of eminent 
women, the Hill had not yet arrived." 1 Abbot's male Trustees duly 
elected to the vacant post Peter Smith Byers, a brilliant assistant teacher 
at Phillips Academy— the only brilliant one in the thirty-eight years of 
Taylor's administration, says Claude Fuess. 2 Byers first accepted, then 
took a closer look. Concluding that Abbot's boarding arrangements 
were inadequate, he withdrew. The Trustees tried to lure Ipswich 
Seminary's principal and his wife to Abbot. Politely, the couple refused. 

Meanwhile, Abbot was being ably led by two acting principals, first 
Mrs. Susan Hutchinson, then Miss Abby W. Chapman. Mrs. Hutchin- 
son was a young widow whose major education had been the discipline 
of misfortune. Early on, her father became "imbued with the then pre- 
vailing spirit of speculation in Maine lands" 3 and lost the money he 
had planned to spend on Susan's schooling. She learned enough to sup- 
port herself by teaching elementary school, then married. But her hus- 
band died of consumption while she was sickening with child-bed 
fever; her infant died, and she was so much weakened in spite of her 
"grand and stately" appearance that her health could not stand the 
rigors of her Abbot work for more than half a year. While she was 
there, she proved extraordinarily kind, capable, and good-humored. 
"The crude efforts of her pupils, exciting her mirthfulness, aided her 


in manifesting the needed patience," wrote her teacher-biographer, 
who knew that teachers must either laugh or give up. 

Mrs. Hutchinson ended Mr. Farwell's military drill, substituting 
reels, winding-circle dances, and calisthenics performed with "back- 
wands" held between the shoulder blades to encourage perfect posture. 
Abby Chapman carried on these innovations, proving equally compe- 
tent if not so colorful. Enrollment stayed high with an average of 
ninety-five students each term, 150 for the year. 

That Abbot's women teachers and students could continue to prosper 
during this rudderless year of 1852-53 is testimony to the school's basic 
durability. It is worth pausing to take a look at one indicator of educa- 
tional vitality at the time: The Experiment, a hand-copied school news- 
paper "published" in the summer of 1853. As the Andover Advertiser 
reported with mock anxiety about this new competitor, "subjects of 
vital importance from 'Mother Goose's Melodies' to the invasion of 
Turkey and the probable consequences of a war, were discussed in a 
manner worthy of diplomatists." 4 "Foreign Intelligence" 5 reporter 
Hattie Stowe also kept subscribers informed of her parents' activities; 
the Seminary's newly arrived Professor Calvin Stowe and his wife 
Harriet Beecher Stowe were touring Europe, keeping tabs on the Lon- 
don publishers of Uncle Tom's Cabin, speaking to British anti-slavery 
societies, "and creating quite a sensation in Scotland." 6 

The Experiment is a bursting trunk of girl thoughts, girl jokes, and 
young-woman dreams, eighty pages long. Poems, solemn memorials to 
dead friends, articles on intemperance, and book reviews (on Thack- 
ery's latest novel, on a collection of antislavery essays) are interspersed 
with riddles, mock political news of 1864, a gossip column, playful 
autobiographies (of a broom, of a piece of sheet music), lists of spuri- 
ous marriages— 

AT INK FARM, June 16th, by Rev. Mr. Merciful, Mr. Worthy 
Caution to Miss Prudence Heedlessness 

and advertisements— 

a new Saloon offers four Information wanted 

kinds of ice cream: Cat- Lost: Dropped out of a 

nip, Spearmint, Wormwood second story window, a small 

and Horseradish. child about two years old. 

Found: A bundle of disconnected 
ideas (believed to be those ad- 
vertised as lost in the last issue). 
Finder attempted to make use 
of them but without success. 


The hard-pressed editors must have needed some hilarity to keep them 
at their copy-work. New subscriptions were always wanted, "terms 
reasonable." The quality of writing is high, the syntax over-elegant 
but orderly, the spelling impeccable, the penmanship incredible to ob- 
servers from this typewriter age. 

Mrs. Hutchinson's and Miss Chapman's success seems to have given 
the Trustees the last proof they required of women's ability as edu- 
cators. After all, Mt. Holyoke had never needed a man. Bradford 
Academy near Haverhill had been booming for years under Abigail 
Hasseltine, with over 200 girls enrolled. The proportion of women 
teachers to men in Massachusetts was on its way from 60 percent in 
1850 to 86 percent in i860. 7 The Trustees knew that action must be 
taken. It was midsummer, and Abbot must open on August 31, 1853. 

Open it did, with two major changes. The Trustees not only in- 
stalled as Abbot's ninth principal Miss Nancy J. Hasseltine, the ener- 
getic niece and protegee of Bradford's Abigail; they also gave up all 
that was left of Farrar's Yankee scheme for keeping principals on their 
toes and Trustees off the hook. They offered Miss Hasseltine a firm 
salary of $500, and took on themselves the full financial risk of the 
school. 8 Miss Hasseltine arrived fresh from the principalship of a school 
in Townsend, Massachusetts, bringing with her a crowd of Townsend 
pupils and "three valuable teachers." 9 With great energy, she set about 
organizing the school. She found Abbot familiar. Bradford and Abbot 
had competed for a similar constituency since 1829. Bradford's own 
new principal, Rebecca Gilman, was an Abbot graduate. Sixty-eight 
girls had attended both Abbot and Bradford, finding Bradford perhaps 
a bit more straitlaced under the aging Abigail Hasseltine, but other- 
wise much the same. 

Young Miss Hasseltine worked a quiet revolution in her two-and-a- 
half year tenure. If men had managed Abbot well, she would manage 
Abbot better. She strengthened the curriculum, systematizing the En- 
glish course with the help of her Associate Principal, Miss Mary Blair, 
and offering English and French "certificates" to Seniors who had ful- 
filled set course requirements. She was "full of strength and cheerful- 
ness," wrote Miss Blair years later. 10 While supervising her assistants 
and keeping most of the school's business affairs in order, she taught 
five or six hours each day. The women in the Bible became heroines in 
her hands. "An empress!" exclaimed one alumna. 11 But she was an em- 
press with a sense of humor. She jollied into action the girls who 
turned sullen under her usual firm handling; one alumna remembered 
"many small kindnesses to unattractive students." 12 She took for her 
own roommate "one of the most care-requiring children in school." 


"Delightfully vigorous and breezy," she had both "a very strong hand" 
and "that peculiar power of making the right popular." 13 The Trust- 
ees' Examining Committee reported in July 1854 that "happiness in 
well-doing seems to be general." They found the Bible exercise im- 
pressive, and praised the Virgil translations. "We regard it as a promi- 
nent peculiarity and excellence of this school [they wrote] that the 
pupils are taught to think for themselves." 14 

As soon as she arrived, Miss Hasseltine told the Trustees what they 
already knew: Abbot must have its own dormitory. More than a mat- 
ter of convenience, this had become a matter of survival. In 1850 Ben- 
jamin Punchard of Andover had died, leaving $50,000 in his will, with 
$20,000 more after his wife's death, to found a free high school for the 
young men and women of his town. Almost immediately after saying 
"No" to the Abbot principalship, the talented Peter Smith Byers had 
said "Yes" to the Punchard High School one. 15 A building was being 
erected within easy walking distance of Abbot, to open in 1856. 

Fitting it was that Andover, the "New England Athens," 16 should 
undertake to provide free to all what Abbot and Phillips had been of- 
fering to the many for a fee— even if a low one. Punchard School was 
an early prototype of the burgeoning number of public high schools 
which would gradually bring the age of the academies to an end. 17 
Inertia would be fatal to any academy with hopes for a future: Abbot 
must change its spots if it would continue to be useful. Shortly after 
Miss Hasseltine came, therefore, the Trustees "Resolved, That it is in- 
dispensable to the prosperity, and even perpetuity of the Academy, to 
raise the sum of eight thousand dollars in order to procure suitable ac- 
commodations for the boarding of pupils." 18 

Several Trustees went straight to work. Still convinced that "the 
chief ground of reliance aside from religion" for any community "is 
the general education of the people," Samuel Jackson had resigned his 
pulpit in 1850 to pursue his broad educational interests as Assistant 
State Librarian and Secretary to the Massachusetts Board of Educa- 
tion. 19 He had long foreseen that Abbot must become a boarding 
school in order to continue its mission, and he could still work heartily 
for a private school that could supplement public educational oppor- 
tunities, knowing that thousands of American communities had no 
high schools. With its low fees, Abbot could remain attractive to stu- 
dents from the many high schools that locked their student clients into 
the social niches already defined for them by birthplace and parent- 
age. 20 The backing of two newer Trustees— Theological Seminary pro- 
fessor Edwards A. Park and Board President Peter Smith, Esquire— 21 
also proved crucial, coming as it did from men of opposite back- 



5. Edwards Amasa Park, Trustee and preacher to Andover Hill, 1851-1900. 
Photograph from Abbot Archives. Originals of all illustrations may be 
found in Abbot Archives, unless otherwise noted. 


4. Deacon Peter Smith, Trustee, and donor, with his brother, of Smith Hall. 
From Memorial to Peter Smith. 

74 SOLID ACQUIRI'.MKNTS, I 8 5 2 - I 8 2 

grounds. Both were parents, Park of one Abbot daughter, Smith of 
nine. Park was the last of the great blue-blood Calvinist theologians, 
Smith a Scottish immigrant and highly successful member of Andover's 
rising industrialist class. Park's elaborate education had prepared him 
for life in a shadow-world of contending ideas. As professor of 
Hebrew, Sacred Rhetoric, and later Christian Theology at Andover 
Theological Seminary, 1836-82, he was a "superb scholar," a "royal 
preacher," 22 and a devastating opponent in logical argument, for he 
invariably "tried to arrange things so that he could have the last 
word." 23 His favorite advice to both theologues and Abbot students: 
"Whenever you meet a ghost, examine him." Meanwhile, Peter Smith's 
day was spent seeing to the welfare of the operatives in the prosperous 
Smith brothers' flax mills, ordering new machinery or hiring new 
workers from Scotland. 24 "A stranger to pride," 25 Smith had hesitated 
to accept election to Abbot's Board because of his "want of literary 
knowledge," but he finally agreed to serve "in any way that will pro- 
mote Knowledge, Virtue and Religion." 26 

Each in his own way, Park and Smith confirmed Abbot's character. 
Edwards Park would be Abbot's link through half a century with the 
old Calvinist tradition, which measured man's capacity for both piety 
and sinfulness on a grand scale, and spoke to the soul in a language of 
awful beauty. Park's fame fed the Academy's pride. Even such a skep- 
tic as Emily Dickinson found herself amazed by his intellectual power 
the first time she heard him preach in Amherst. 27 For years after he 
became too old to take an active part in the Trustees' work, he re- 
mained the Board President, and every Abbot graduate received her 
diploma from his hand. Peter Smith, the self-made man, found Abbot, 
the self-made school, congenial. He knew what struggle was, having 
worked steadily as farmhand and millhand since the age of eight to 
support his widowed mother. He accepted the terms on which the 
canny survive, admiring and enhancing all that was practical in Abbot 

Smith backed with his money the move to transform Abbot from 
day school to boarding school. When he saw that his initial challenge 
gift of $1000 challenged practically no one, he and his brother John 
together first loaned, then gave over $5500 more to meet nearly the 
whole cost of the dormitory themselves. Like several of their later 
contributions to the institutions of Andover Hill, the Smith brothers' gift 
was a tribute to Samuel Jackson, for so many years their pastor at 
West Parish Church. 28 Though Jackson himself had no money to 
spare, he was a magnet for others' wealth. Under his persuasion, a few 
other Trustees and parents finally yielded the rest of the $7033.64 re- 


quired, but Abbot's tight-fisted constituents could hardly quarrel with 
the Trustees' name for the new building: Smith Hall. 29 

Smith Hall was a large wooden box divided into about thirty rooms, 
each twelve feet by twelve feet, with a dining room, kitchen, music 
room, and matron's apartment on the first floor. At first it was an 
empty, useless box, for its construction had more than exhausted avail- 
able funds. Into this vacuum stepped the wives and mothers, led by 
Caroline True Jackson and Harriet Beecher Stowe. Mrs. Stowe knew 
how to raise money for the furnishings: "We must have a festival," 
she reportedly told Mrs. Jackson. 30 At first the idea seemed outland- 
ish—but then, so did many of Airs. Stowe's ideas. If Professor Park and 
other high priests of the Hill grumbled that her trips to the Boston 
theater and her merry, popular levees led to "dissipation for the stu- 
dents" (at one party, a Christmas tree was displayed), much of Andover 
approved her "glowing enthusiasm." 31 To southern critics, Uncle 
T orris Cabin was a "desecration of woman's nature," 32 but Mrs. Stowe's 
friends knew her as "the most unselfish and loving of Mothers." 33 
About thirty-five ladies, including representatives from each of An- 
dover's Protestant churches and Mrs. Park, met in the Academy Hall 
to hear her "telling speech" 34 in favor of Abbot's first Bazaar. Quickly 
they organized, and on the evening of September 29, 1854, greeted 
throngs of the curious, the generous, and the eager-to-be-seen at fifty 
cents admission apiece (about $6.00 in 1978 currency). The Academy 
Hall was transformed by flowers indoors and Japanese lanterns out- 
side, the last hung by Phillips Academy boys. Richly appointed tea 
and coffee tables offered free beverages; Mrs. Stowe poured, wearing a 
gold bracelet in the form of a slave's shackle, commissioned for her by 
the Duchess of Sutherland. 35 Oysters, ice cream, and endless baked 
goods were presented for sale. Two thousand dollars was raised in all, 
enough to buy furniture for every room and equipment for the 
kitchen and dining room, everything "plain and cheap." 36 Local mer- 
chants sold these goods to Abbot at generous discounts, along with 
materials for curtains and slipcovers, which the ladies sewed themselves 
in the weeks following the festival. 

Miss Hasseltine strove consciously to make her school worthy of all 
this help. As Annie Sawyer Downs would write years later, "If (Ab- 
bot) was born in 1829, it was born again in 1853" when the Hasseltine 
years began. 37 Smith Hall made it possible to offer board, washing, and 
pew-rent for $2.50 a week from 1854 to 1862, more than the pittance 
paid by the Commons-dwellers both at Abbot in the 1840's and at 
Phillips next door, but still a moderate sum to match the tuition charges 
of $6.00 or $7.00 a term. (Piano lessons were $10.00 extra, Latin $3.00, 

j6 SOLID ACQUIREMENTS, I 8 5 2 - I 8 9 2 

French $5.00, and a "Course of Lessons in Wax Flowers" was $3.00 a 
term.) Increasingly, girls stayed the full forty-week year, paying about 
$140.00 for all regular expenses. With the building of Smith Hall, 
Abbot had become a "school-home" (the term is used again and again 
after 1854), a self-contained community run by women for women 
which left much less of students' lives to chance than had the earlier, 
more casual day school. 38 Head matron JVIrs. H. B. Willard was assisted 
by Mrs. Angelina Kimball, who would herself become head matron in 
i860 and stay forty years. Resident teachers helped them manage the 
large household. Mrs. Kimball was a jolly, efficient woman with whom 
secrets were always safe— and thus she heard a great many of them. 
Bridget the cook ruled in the kitchen, regularly sneaking pieces of pie 
up the back stairs to her favorite girls, no matter what economies the 
Trustees might order her to make. 

The Trustees' description of Smith Hall as a "commodious and cost- 
ly building" 39 might seem exaggerated to the students who lived in 
those tiny bare rooms and felt the winter in their bones during those 
first ten years without a furnace, but "we were happy and content," 
remembers an early resident. 40 Nor was Smith Hall quite the "still and 
secluded home" the Trustees imagined. 41 A decade before its construc- 
tion, there was exactly one piano in all of Andover; 42 Smith Hall soon 
had two of its own. The girls danced in the music room while waiting 
for their mail each day, and on summer afternoons aspiring young 
pianists enjoyed the unseen presence of an appreciative male audience: 
the Phillips boys boarding in the two houses that flanked Abbot on 
School Street. Students from ten years of age to twenty-two or three 
made the dormitory a lively place. It was a new experience for the 
many hailing from rural and small-town New England to meet such as 
the four Stowell sisters, who had come from San Francisco for school- 
ing in New England. With the building of Smith Hall, out-of-class 
experience became central to an Abbot education. 

Abbot's enrollment rose to 212 in 1856. It was 185 in the recession 
year of 1857, while Bradford's roll was dropping alarmingly from 209 
in 1855 to 125 in 1857. Bradford did not learn the dormitory lesson 
until 1868. Abbot's numbers soon leveled off, but the pattern of enroll- 
ments changed significantly during Miss Hasseltine's tenure and the 
decade following her resignation. Punchard High School gradually 
took Abbot's place as Andover's major secondary school for local girls. 
In Miss Hasseltine's first year, 94 of her 169 students were Andover 
or North Andover girls, 56 percent of the total; the number declined 
only slightly through 1856 when Punchard actually opened after a 
delay complicated by Peter Smith Byers' untimely death. By the fall 


of 1858, however, the Punchard Trustees had found an extraordinarily 
capable principal in William Goldsmith, Harvard A.B. Goldsmith or- 
ganized the school into four classes. With the help of his assistants, in- 
cluding Abbot alumnae Rebecca Nourse and Sarah Loring Bailey, he 
taught most of the subjects Abbot offered and some others besides: 
Butler's Analogy, Trigonometry, one year of French, "Uranography" 
(star mapping), and, to those few students anxious for classics instruc- 
tion, Xenaphon and Homer as well as Latin through Virgil. During 
Punchard's first three years, seven or eight Abbot girls left the Acade- 
my to attend the High School each year, among them Mary S. Nourse, 
one of Abbot's most talented students, who used her one year at Abbot 
to prepare for the classical course at Punchard; but the transfers 
dwindled as the years went on, undoubtedly because more local stu- 
dents went straight from elementary school to the high school. By 
1865, the year Abbot's minimum day scholar tuition jumped from 
twenty-four dollars to thirty-two dollars and twenty-five cents, the 
local student enrollment had fallen to 16 percent of the total (27 out 
of 167). 

There are some curious twists to this story. Several students finished 
their education at Abbot after trying Punchard. Youngest daughters of 
two fathers active in the 1848 protest against Farwell preferred Abbot 
over Punchard. Ellen Punchard, daughter of the High School's found- 
er, spent five years at Abbot before finishing in 1863— and is not listed 
on the Punchard rolls at all. 43 As far as can be told from scanty rec- 
ords, none of the Punchard Trustees except Edward Taylor, an Abbot 
Trustee from 1859 to 1870, had daughters at Abbot, but the venerable 
Squire Farrar helped draw up organizational plans for the High School 
shortly before he died. The two schools would remain on speaking 
terms and better for many years. After Punchard's opening, however, 
there were to be far fewer efforts to accommodate the Academy to 
the local clientele and fewer brakes applied to tuition raises. The ad- 
vent of Andover's first public high school pushed Abbot to take its 
own more independent course as boarding school. 44 

Principal Hasseltine believed in women. She made her teachers col- 
leagues rather than mere assistants, consulting them often on disciplin- 
ary and curricular decisions, a practice Phillips Academy's "Uncle 
Sam" Taylor eschewed as compromising to his supreme authority. Her 
teachers seem to have been eminently worthy of this responsibility. 
Miss Blair was a true scholar, "the first teacher to send me to original 
sources," wrote a student who went on to Wheaton College. 45 This 
patient and sensitive woman "taught everything as if that was her fa- 


vorite study." 46 Samuel Jackson's daughter Susannah, Abbot '51, proved 
"a remarkable teacher," recalled Marion Park. She was more than 
smart; she was "kind, public-spirited," and possessed of "a tremendous 
sense of duty." 47 No men teachers need apply to the Abbot of the 
fifties. With the exception of an occasional visiting lecturer such as the 
renowned geography professor Arnold H. Guyot from Harvard, and 
two part-time music instructors in 1856, Abbot relied on its own 
women. Miss Hasseltine severed all formal teaching connections with 
Theological Seminary students and professors, and put a stop to the 
daily trips up the Hill to lectures on science or literature at the Phil- 
lips Academy English Department. After her marriage in 1856, her 
successors Maria J. B. Browne and the competent Emma Taylor, sister 
of "Uncle Sam," successfully maintained the distance thus measured 
out between Abbot and the Hilltop. 

Why this change? Miss Hasseltine could have simply been copying 
Bradford, her old family school, which had been decidedly single-sex 
for two decades. But there is a subdued militancy in her actions which 
makes one wonder to what degree the new Abbot women were moved 
by the push for women's suffrage that characterized the 1840's and 
50's. Had any of them heard or read Elizabeth Cady Stanton's speech 
at the Seneca Falls convention in 1848? 

Woman herself must do this work; for woman alone can under- 
stand the height, the depth, the length and the breadth of her 
degradation. 48 

Occupational opportunities were widening once again. True, pioneers 
like Elizabeth Blackwell, physician, Maria Mitchell, astronomer, and 
Jane Swisshelm, newspaper publisher, might be more notorious than 
they were respected, for the numbers of professional women were still 
tiny; but their success inspired thousands of young women to reach 
for the training they would need to do such work themselves. Susannah 
Jackson recalls Harriet Beecher Stowe's telling girls that "women 
should do whatever their gifts qualified them to do." 49 Although no 
woman suffragists had yet appeared in Andover, the antislavery move- 
ment made women a political force to be reckoned with. Mrs. Stowe 
was only its most famous adherent; there were others like Caroline 
True Jackson, who supported Essex County antislavery societies with 
far too much verve to suit her colonizationist husband Samuel. Simi- 
larly, the temperance movement began educating women citizens long 
before women voters existed. 

Here is a paradox: While a few women were demanding entry into 
man's world, many Americans shared a new consensus emphasizing the 


differences between men's and women's roles, a view to which Abbot 
may have been responding. 50 It is ironic but probably not coincidental 
that the fifties should hold side by side the expansion of women's op- 
portunities and the early- Victorian retreat back into the home. While 
the first half of the nineteenth century saw an absolute increase in 
women's political and economic activities outside the home, they lost 
real power relative to men. This was a time of dramatic expansion of 
manhood suffrage, and a girl's chance to work in a mill for low wages 
was small compensation for woman's loss of responsibility for basic 
production. New England had completed the "transition from mother 
and daughter power to water and steam power," said Horace Bushnell 
in 1 85 1. 51 Men wanted— and took— the new supervisory and profession- 
al jobs. Many of the stronger sex panicked on hearing the suf- 
fragist rhetoric; it was much to their interest to put women back in 
their places. Too, women themselves often feared the clamor of the 
marketplace or the hustings as much as men feared their competition 
within them, especially as the end of the decade added economic panic 
to wrenching political cleavages. Better (thought many) to accept the 
power trade-off implied by Horace Bushnell in his popular book Chris- 
tian Nurture* 2 as wife and mother of immortal souls, woman must be 
supreme in the home while man remains supreme in the world at large. 
A "cult of true womanhood" had gradually evolved between 1820 and 
i860, as historian Barbara Welter asserts. Man, the "busy builder/' 
"occasionally felt some guilt that he had turned this new land, this 
temple of the chosen people, into one vast counting-house. But he 
could salve his conscience by reflecting that he had left behind a 
hostage, not only to fortune, but to all the values which he held so 
dear and treated so lightly. Woman . . . was the hostage in the home." 53 
Within that home, one German visitor observed, "Woman is the center 
and the lawgiver, and the American man loves it so." 54 According to 
another, woman's status in society was certified by men's "limitless re- 
spect [for] and boundless submission" to "The Ladies!" 55 Thus in the 
1820's Catharine Beecher had stood for woman's right to an education 
equaling that of her brothers, while in the fifties Miss Beecher more 
often exalted "Woman's Profession" as the manager of family and 
household. Even more than her sister Harriet— who at least gave lip 
service to woman suffrage— Miss Beecher had shied from the logic 
which asserted that women's proven ability to pursue equal education 
entitled her to equal political rights; instead she urged her contempo- 
raries toward acceptance of a legally subordinate role. Women's self- 
sacrifice would help to create a new national ethic to balance the 
rampant self-seeking that characterized men's affairs. 56 


Whatever Miss Hasseltine's views on sexual equality, her successors fell 
in line with Victorian convention. The 1857 catalogue pledged Abbot 
"not only to develop and invigorate the intellectual growth, but also to 
refine and soften the manners, cultivate the moral affections, and mould 
into symmetrical proportions the entire character." The Commence- 
ment speaker of 1858 chose "Women's Rights" as his topic, and warned 
the Abbot students not to assert them: "Every female of delicacy must 
revolt at finding herself in contaminating contact with the influences 
of the polls," lest she "be placed in conflict and on a level with every 
blackguard." 57 The queenly Maria Browne advised her graduating 
Seniors to welcome the difference between their own futures and the 
"active life" open to male graduates of "classic halls." From men's 
"grand activities divine Wisdom has excluded you . . . The miserable 
contest upon equality of power and place is vain, and idle, and pre- 
posterous. God has written the answer to the question with his own 
finger upon the very constitution of woman." She is not "an indepen- 
dence," but "a co-operating power." 58 For the time being, the cult of 
true womanhood had won out. 

Such sentiments came naturally to Miss Browne, who had been 
teaching belles lettres 59 to young ladies in Virginia when she was 
called to Abbot for the 1856-57 school year. Her successor Emma 
Taylor did nothing to challenge them. "Lovely in character, with the 
culture that comes from travel, she was the material of which noble, 
true, forgiving friends are made," wrote Elizabeth Emerson, '56, who 
had needed forgiving friends as a novice teacher under Miss Taylor. 
Miss Taylor specialized in women's specialties. She organized the study 
of art by using photographs she had brought back from Europe; she 
further enriched the literature offerings. And as she was later to record, 
just before she left Abbot to return to Adams Academy, "We were 
blessed with a revival of religion, and quite a number became Chris- 
tians ... A citizen remarked of one of the converts that he would 
know by her walk on the streets that a change had taken place." 60 The 
revival spirit might be waning among Congregationalists and Presby- 
terians elsewhere; not so on Andover Hill. 

The McKeens Arrive 

Abbot Academy was flourishing, but the Trustees were having no 
better luck holding the female principals of the fifties than they had 
the male ones of the thirties. By 1859, the Board was determined to 
find a committed woman who would not marry, like Miss Hasseltine, 


or leave for a more comfortable position, like the misses Browne and 
Taylor. To their surprise and satisfaction, they finally found not one 
such person, but two. Philena and Phebe McKeen came to Abbot 
as Principal and Assistant Principal from Western Female Seminary in 
Oxford, Ohio, where they had been teaching together since that insti- 
tuition had been founded "upon the Holyoke Plan" in 1855. 61 

Given their ages— thirty-seven and twenty-eight— one might suppose 
that Philena and Phebe McKeen had long ago left behind their orig- 
inal home in Bradford, Vermont; both women had been teaching in 
schools and boarding seminaries from the age of sixteen. But ages de- 
ceive. Throughout their lives, the sisters carried within them memories 
of their home life and powerful images of the ideal family that shaped 
their work at Abbot. In their hands, the "school-home" became also 
the "family," an ever-larger company whose values mirrored those in- 
stilled in these two, the fourth and the youngest of seven children, by 
their parents and by the circumstances of the simple farming com- 
munity in which they grew up. Indeed, Philena had never attended a 
formal school: her minister father had taught her himself, consciously 
turning every conversation into a lesson. A benevolent authoritarian, 
Silas McKeen "never allowed an ungrammatical expression to escape 
correction." 62 Furthermore, he urged his children always to put their 
imaginations into words, himself delighting in speaking to trees and 
stones, each according to its special character, when he took his 
daughters on long drives around his parish. Any child might be com- 
manded at dinner time to "address a table," or "address a vine." 63 He 
took personal responsibility for each child's religious conversion; he 
taught his older daughters to read the New Testament in the original 
Greek at a time when Greek was considered impossibly difficult for 
any girl to learn. To Abbot, Philena and Phebe brought the unques- 
tioned assumption that "beyond learning was character, that religion 
was indeed the chief end and aim of life," and that all students and 
teachers should rejoice in the opportunity to serve others. 64 

Above all, both sisters learned from their parents to educate them- 
selves. To them, teaching and learning were companion processes. 
Phebe's three-year tenure as instructor at Mt. Holyoke was especially 
stimulating to her. Philena liked to say that "Whatever I study I be- 
come interested in," 65 and whatever interested her she taught to others. 
Each summer vacation from Abbot, Phebe would take up her writing, 
and Philena would immerse herself in Bible study, or in the history of 
art, bringing fresh ideas to her students in the fall. Philena was the 
more serious of the two. "She was a wonderful listener," wrote one of 
her young colleagues, 66 with a "lucid and logical mind" which brooked 



$. "The binary star'' 1 ; Philena and Phebe McKeen, 1864. 

no obstacles. 67 As teacher, wrote a pupil and colleague, she "sought not 
merely facts and dates, but required opinions . . . Before her clear- 
sighted inspection, mere fluency disappeared." 68 She brought a profu- 
sion of visual materials to the classroom to illustrate her lectures, yet 
she never said or did anything merely for effect. She was a practical 
person, and deliberate show was wasteful. 

Philena McKeen— always "Miss McKeen" to her students— was large- 
framed, tireless, certain of her authority. Marion Park, who tagged 
along as a child of eight or nine on carriage rides with her grand- 
mother Park and Miss McKeen, remembered her size, and her fright- 
ening way of asking small children questions to which she already 
knew the answers. "Miss Phebe" was taller, slimmer, with quick black 
eyes behind spectacles, eyes that missed nothing. She had a brilliant 
mind, as well as a "mordant wit" 69 ready to turn upon the student with 
the shoddy answer. A sensitive, lively writer, her published novels and 
stories reflect her joy in nature— a gift of her father and of long child- 
hood rambles in the mountains near her home— and her complex per- 
ceptions of other people. 70 Theodora, a Home Story is partly about 
her girlhood; it is an intricate novel that is constantly overflowing the 


boundaries of conventional religious fiction. Abbot alumnae absorbed 
Phebe's holy enthusiasm for the "sparkling snow" and the "mellow, 
fragrant" summer "because in the excellence of your wisdom you 
made us go out to look at these things every single day of our lives." 71 
They remembered her extraordinary skill in conversation and her 
teaching of Chaucer and Horace. Through her encouragement, her 
students came to feel "that they too were worthy to read Milton and 
Wordsworth." 72 Her greatest power as a teacher seems to have been 
her open love for and interest in every one of her girls. The older ones 
were as sisters, the younger as daughters. 

Philena McKeen drew for herself on Phebe's love. Clearly they were 
to each other much of what husband and wife can become; each had 
also that rich comfortableness in the other's company that only siblings 
can share. They were often referred to as "the Principals" of Abbot 
Academy 73 or, as Professor Park called them, Abbot's "binary star." 74 

One of the first things the Trustees said to Miss McKeen was that 
"she must be content with what she had," recalled Marion Park. "But 
she was never content for a single moment, and from her discontent 
rose the Academy itself." 75 Smith Hall might be adequate for now, but 
the worn Academy building, its walls smoked gray by many whale-oil 
lamps and nearly bare of pictures or other ornament, the tiny shelf of 
books that was Abbot's entire library (a pitiful contrast to Bradford's 
1500 volumes), the empty equipment closets— all cried out for im- 
provement. Miss McKeen had a bit of the hustler in her: if this was to 
be her home, she would fix it up in a manner that befitted her station, 
no matter how low her salary at first. As she wrote much later, "We 
began to devise, as women will." 76 

The Principal ordered that all waste paper be saved and sold to buy 
framed pictures for the classrooms. She and her teachers mounted a 
series of lectures and entertainments, for which admission was charged. 
One was a cantata, "The Haymakers," the parts sung and acted by 
Abbot girls and theological students who raked real hay in a perfor- 
mance so near to a stage play that one Seminary professor took his 
daughter and walked out in disdain. Another was a charades party 
with both Phillips boys and theologues as guests. (The theologues 
played crows in one skit, flapping their umbrella wings.) 77 For a good 
cause, Hilltop males were now welcome at Abbot once more, and thus 
Miss McKeen found funds for carpets and for classroom whitewashing. 
When she surveyed the motley drawerful of Smith Hall spoons— a few 
silver teaspoons left behind by old scholars, plus a ghastly matched 
set of cheap alloy dessert spoons provided by the Trustees— she invited 
the Board to tea. The dessert spoons had an annoying tendency to up- 


set the teacups, but Miss McKeen wiped up efficiently and kept the 
conversation going; shortly afterward, Trustee George Davis sent a set 
of seven dozen monogrammed silver spoons to Abbot Academy for 
the use of the Smith Hall family. 

In spite of her energy as collector of goods, Miss McKeen probably 
had no more material pretensions than anyone else in Victorian Amer- 
ica. Abbot's setting was in many ways congenial to simple tastes. The 
sisters' small-town background made them deeply suspicious of city 
life with its "mad scramble for money and place . . . wretchedness and 
luxury mocking each other," as Miss Phebe wrote in Theodora. 78 
"There are no 'servants' in Vermont," 79 — and though there was abun- 
dance of Protestant pride at Abbot, there would also be conscious ef- 
fort to minimize class snobbishness. To Miss Phebe (or at least to 
Theodora's favorite uncle), "the most hopeless sort of folks are those 
regular society people, who are all run in one mould." 80 Much evi- 
dence suggests, however, that Miss McKeen took seriously the Puritan 
equation of wealth and virtue: powered by her desire to match Ab- 
bot's physical setting with its educational worth, she would lead the 
school through an expansion of buildings, grounds, and teaching re- 
sources that was to have dramatic consequences for Abbot's own place 
in the educational world. 

Civil War 

Within a year of the McKeens' arrival in 1859 Abbot was immersed in 
the general excitement over the presidential election. Women might 
not vote, but the whole Abbot community joined in celebrating 
Lincoln's victory. Andover had passed from Whig loyalty through 
Know-Nothing insanity in 1854 to solid Republicanism. The theologues 
purchased 1200 candles to "illuminate" on the night of November 7, 
and Smith Hall residents answered with candles in each of their win- 
dows. Hannibal Hamlin's vice-presidential election meant as much as 
Lincoln's to Abbot, since Hamlin was the brother of Cyrus and the 
uncle of all the Abbot Hamlins. 

The McKeens' childhood home had been a station on the Under- 
ground Railroad. Miss Phebe especially admired the militants' courage 
and decisiveness. When the Civil War began, Abbot swung enthusias- 
tically behind the Northern cause. Students spent all of Wednesday 
and Saturday afternoons "working for soldiers." 81 They sewed uni- 
forms for Phillips Academy's Ellsworth Guards, rolled bandages and 
knitted socks for soldiers, and sent comfort bags to border state hospi- 



6. Smith Hall ""celebrating the surrender of Jefferson Davis" according to 
the penciled legend: the students in their gym suits. 1864. 

tals accompanied by encouraging notes, to which they signed fictitious 
names, in obedience to their teachers. "Carrie Felton," probably Caro- 
line Jackson, received thanks from a wounded soldier in Washington, 
D.C., who finished his letter by writing, "A man must be a good sol- 
dier when sustained by smiles and encouraging deeds of fair young 
ladies whose hands can knit . . . such comforts . . . for the rude rough 
man of war." 82 

The war seemed to underline the differences between man as activist 
and woman as the moral power back home. As Abbot's major Semi- 
centennial speaker Richard S. Storrs, D.D., was to say: "It was that 
conscience in the American woman, sending out half a million of men, 
its instruments and ministers, to the bloody field, which finally . . . 
swept from existence that detestable system [of slavery]." 83 Theodora 
tells one of her soldier-suitors: 

"I want you to feel you are one of the champions of a 
Government as strong as it is free, which will bless the nation 
years after these armies are all dead." 

"Perhaps I might [he replies 1 if I could always kindle my 
enthusiasm at those beautiful eyes." 84 

But contradictory trends again appear. The war also opened a mul- 
titude of chances for women to do "man's work," whether in the 
hayfields, the offices, or the hospitals. Harriet Beecher Stowe was 
certain that the end of slavery would allow the nation to turn its at- 
tention to women's rights and needs, "to purge out" aristocratic and 


"Old World" ideas. 85 Though one can find no talk of women's rights 
among Abbot students, they gladly put up with shortages and extra 
work on the upkeep of buildings and grounds. Certainly the Academy 
shared in the elation of a job well done at the war's end. The whole 
population of Smith Hall students climbed onto the roof dressed in 
their gym suits and kicked their heels, through their gymnastic exercises, 
the closest thing to a dance ever allowed in those days. (They displaced 
so many tiles that the next rain brought floods into the third-floor 
rooms.) On April 15, 1865, however, all the teachers arrived at morning 
prayers in tears. Miss McKeen could not read the news of Lincoln's 
assassination; Miss Phebe barely managed it. An alumna remembered the 
collective grief: "Down went one head after another on the desk in 
front, and the sobbing continued until we were dismissed." 86 

Thus ended the elation for Abbot as for all of Republican Andover; 
but the long-term effects of the war years remained. The Academy had 
prospered. In spite of raised yearly charges— now $251.25, partly a 
response to wartime inflation— the halls were overfull; many an Abbot 
father was making tuition payments out of the high price of apples, 87 
or by supplying the endless requirements of the Grand Army. In 1865 
Trustee Davis purchased the Farwell house and land just north of 
Academy Hall for $4500 and donated it to the school, protesting the 
name his colleagues gave the new boarding house: "Davis Hall." He 
then lent the Trustees funds enough to buy "South Hall" next door. 
The next year, Smith Hall was enlarged and provided with bathrooms. 
For the first time the Academy was reaping steady profits, most of 
which were used to enlarge and landscape the grounds. The McKeens 
had early taken over from the Trustees the receiving and screening of 
applications. Now an admissions examination was instituted; for a dec- 
ade afterward, enrollment in the school ranged between no and 181 
pupils, and boarding applicants were often turned away. 

Well might the McKeen sisters be pleased. The students had tried 
them— both were "studied day by day," one wrote a friend in 1859— 
and, on the whole, approved them. "We have learned to love our new 
teachers dearly, but we think some of the new rules monstrousP Still, 
the "universal verdict" was that they "were true, consistent and de- 
voted." 88 Miss McKeen chatted contentedly of her daily concerns in 
a letter to one of her relatives in 1864: "The school has been full and 
pleasant this year. We mourn the loss of the senior class . . . Katie 
Johnson is with us this term and is doing very well. She is a good 
scholar, and patient & cheerful & beloved. I wish she might become a 
Christian." Abbot had successfully negotiated its bumpy adolescence, 
and entered into its Golden Age. 



7. Philena McKeen with her first Senior Class (i860) and the Class of 186 1 

8. A boarding school. The students'' entrance to the Academy building 
(later Abbot Hall) faced Smith Hall for thirty-five years, ignoring 
School Street. 

Abbot in the Golden Age 

There were giants in those days 
Anna L. Dawes, 192 1 

By the mid 1860's the McKeen sisters were well settled at Abbot. They 
were strong-willed, yet ideologically moderate; they juggled nicely the 
often contradictory interests of their expanding constituency. They 
wove new ties with the prosperous Andover community, and brought 
Old Scholars (the "Dear Old Girls") back into the Family. Almost 
immediately they reestablished some of the Hill connections that Miss 
Hasseltine had broken. Happy in the memory of their minister father 
and brother, they were more fond than wary of men— the right sort of 
men. Nor did Philena McKeen scorn town for gown, as Farwell seems 
to have done. She did all she could to involve Abbot in the churches, 
clubs, and entertainments of Andover. No flaming reformers, both 
McKeens believed the world could best be saved "man by man." 1 
Abbot's growth during the McKeen era would be woman by woman, 
gradual but enduring. By the time the McKeen era ended in 1892, 
the basic pattern the twentieth-century school would follow had been 
well laid down. 


Abbot's formal curriculum looks much the same during the McKeens' 
tenure as it did in the i85o's. A few subjects were added as time went 
on, but one can find little sign of coherent academic planning. The 
Course of Studies conformed to teachers' particular interests or skills. 
Philena McKeen was fascinated by the history of the early Christian 
Church, so she made it a staple of the Senior year. History of Art 
entered the Senior curriculum by the same route. Yet Abbot did not 
entirely give in to the usual Victorian division of labor, whereby men 
were the serious artists and women studied all their works, 2 for studio 
art became a favorite course when the exacting Emily Means began 
coming every Saturday to teach it. 


Some themes recurred under new headings: the concerns of Psy- 
chology, added to the Senior course in 1876, were little different from 
those which Abbot women studied in their "Moral and Mental Phi- 
losophy" classes of the thirties and forties. Wayland had been dropped, 
as had many of the early textbooks, but teachers like Elizabeth Storrs 
Mead continued to ask Wayland's questions: "What is knowing?" 
"What is seeing?" "How does the infant develop?" "How does the 
soul know its own states?" 3 English reading lists were conservative. 
While Emily Dickinson was reading Emerson and Thoreau at her Am- 
herst retreat and expressing her release from the old formalism in her 
poetry, Abbot girls stayed safe with Milton and Tennyson. 4 One 
Abbot student of 1861 copied some of Margaret Fuller's Woman in 
the Nineteenth Century into her journal, but there is no evidence that 
such radical readings were ever assigned by Abbot teachers. The Mc- 
Keen sisters' History of the English Language, 5 first offered as an alter- 
native to the Senior Trigonometry requirement, was so often chosen 
that Trigonometry was eventually dropped. All surviving student com- 
position books suggest that standards for writing were high. One 
alumna, responding to Phebe McKeen's request for alumnae reminis- 
cences, tells us how well the teaching stuck. 

I feel a good many qualms about writing to you, remembering so 
distinctly as I do all the personal remarks that used to be in my 
compositions. I don't believe you will have time to correct this 
and send it back, but if you do I will copy it in my best hand 
even if it takes me four hours . . . 

Yours with ever so much love to both you and your sister, 

Sarah Maria Barrows Dummer, '67 
Her Mark X 6 

Science laboratory facilities were pathetic, however. It took the enthu- 
siasm of Wellesley graduate Isabella French to make physics and chem- 
istry finally worth while in the 1880's, and to prepare for Katherine 
Kelsey's and Alice Hamlin's wider offerings and more extensive shar- 
ing of Phillips Academy science equipment later on. 

Abbot's modern language program was one exception to this rather 
haphazard evolution of curriculum. Though it is doubtful that either 
of the McKeens spoke French or German themselves, they carefully 
fostered the study of both languages. They concentrated on improv- 
ing offerings in these two instead of reviving the showy smatterings of 
Abbot's earlier years, when Italian and Spanish instruction was adver- 
tised along with French, German, Latin, and Greek. 7 They introduced 
a systematic oral language program that put Abbot's language training 


on a par with Harvard's elective French and German courses and far 
outdistanced Phillips Academy, which would offer no modern lan- 
guage at all until the mid 1870's, when a single year of elementary 
French or German was added to the Classical Department curriculum. 
This seems surprising until one realizes that Abbot in the early Mc- 
Keen era served much the same age group as did Harvard (about fif- 
teen to twenty-two), while the Phillips Classics Department was a col- 
lege preparatory school. 8 Miss McKeen early encouraged Caroline 
Hamlin, '66, Henrietta Jackson's daughter and a Senior so proficient in 
French as to be listed with the faculty, to head a French-speaking table 
in Smith Hall. After 1869 French students lived and ate together in 
Davis Hall, speaking French for all but two hours of their out-of-class 
day under the care of the French teacher, who (said Phebe McKeen) 
gave them "admirable instruction along with that home influence that 
is more to them than any gift of tongues." 9 Separate diplomas for the 
English, French, Latin, and German courses were given until 1876, 
when— because too many students were avoiding it— language study be- 
came required of all students, as it had been for several years at Brad- 
ford. By that time German had become a fairly popular subject, and a 
German House in South Hall soon opened. South Hall's Vassar-trained 
preceptresses first felt obliged to expurgate most of the German texts, 
but their native German successors were more daring; 10 Frau Natalie 
Schiefferdecker, the most skillful and interesting of these, would stay 
a full twenty-one years. Even Miss McKeen's antipathy to theater was 
softened by educational logic when language students asked permis- 
sion to put on German and French plays. Both were enthusiastically 
presented from the early eighties on, often with elaborate costumes and 
scenery. 11 The audience inevitably included u the elite of this old liter- 
ary town," said the Andover Townsman, 12 as well as crowds of Abbot, 
Phillips, and Theological Seminary students. 

As with many of Miss McKeen's projects, her desire for rigorous lan- 
guage teaching was strengthened by her attentiveness to the fashions 
of the times. The McKeens knew that fluency in French or German 
was the mark of a sophisticated lady; this knowledge was motive 
enough to bring Abbot's language program in line with those in the 
best schools and colleges for young women. Meanwhile, serious mod- 
ern language study was considered frippery for busy young men. M. 
Carey Thomas, bemoaning the provincial character of her native Balti- 
more long before she left it to become Bryn Mawr's first dean, 
complained that "French and Germans were only teachers in girls' 
schools." 13 Not until the twentieth century did boys' schools catch up 
in this area. Comparisons over time are complex, because nineteenth- 


9 1 

g. German Play in the Chapel, 1892: Die Huldigung der Kunste (Schiller). 

century students scanned their French texts clause by clause much as 
they did their Latin or Greek; thus they could work their way through 
literature as difficult as that now read in the most advanced (college 
level) Phillips Academy courses. There seems no doubt, however, that 
the McKeens' oral language program was first rate for its time and 
would be first rate now. 14 

Throughout the third quarter of the nineteenth century, in fact, the 
"Fern Sem" down the Hill was offering a richer academic experience 
than the renowned prep school on the Hilltop. In a sense, it was fortu- 
nate that the majority of America still refused to take women's edu- 
cation seriously: Abbot students were free of that thralldom to the 
ancient college preparatory tradition which Phillips boys suffered 
under Principals Adams and Taylor. It was only when Phillips gradu- 
ates found their "Latin, Greek and a smattering of Mathematics" 15 
inadequate for entrance to Harvard and other of the more progressive 
colleges that Uncle Sam Taylor began to open the door for Principal 
Cecil Bancroft's reform. 16 After Bancroft took over in 1873, Phillips' 
curriculum swiftly improved. Abbot grew as proud of its neighboring 
Academy as it was of the Theological Seminary, and the two schools 
invited each other's students to lectures, concerts, religious services and 


other special occasions throughout the Bancroft era. In Professor Wes- 
ley Churchill's often quoted phrase, this was "the trinity of Andover 
schools" whose influence on each other— subtle though it was— consti- 
tuted a fact of life on the Hill. 

Increasingly, Abbot became home to a stable corps of teachers, many 
of whom stayed ten years or longer. Every year they were joined by 
younger women, often favored recent graduates who would shine for 
a year or two then marry, or by ambitious career teachers who would 
soon leave for higher-paid posts. One of these was Mrs. Elizabeth 
Mead, Abbot 1883-89, and president of Mt. Holyoke College 1889- 
1900, years that spanned the Seminary's transition to college status. 
Male professors from the Theological Seminary or from the New 
England men's colleges would periodically offer a course of lectures in 
subjects such as astronomy or ethics. 

The McKeens' most enduring colleague was Professor Samuel Morse 
Downs, who came to teach music the year after their arrival and taught 
up to 71 pupils each year (with an average of about 40) in piano, 
voice, and theory until 1907. Students were devoted to this small, quick 
man whose "humor and courtesy" were "his only weapons of disci- 
pline." 17 His tenure coincided with the great age of American concert- 
going, a time when the New York Festival of Classical Music with its 
320 piece orchestra and chorus of 3500 could attract 18,000 listeners 
two years in a row (1881 and '82). Boston area audiences were smaller 
but no less discerning. An enthusiastic performer and composer also, 
Downs divided his time after 1868 between Abbot, Bradford, and Bos- 
ton's Old South Church, where he served as organist. In 1876, Downs 
set up an Andover recital series of three concerts a year at his own 
financial risk— and sometimes loss. Abbot students could hear groups 
such as the Kniesel String Quartet and the Boston Symphony Wood- 
wind Choir at one third the price they would have paid for tickets to 
similar programs in Boston. When Downs retired, no one was surprised 
that two teachers had to be hired to take his place. 

Of course, Downs's success soon meant that Abbot must have more 
pianos. By 1892 there were twelve, including two grand pianos. His- 
torians maintain that the nineteenth-century family changed from a 
producing unit to a consuming unit, with profound consequences for 
family relationships. During the McKeen era the Abbot Family became 
consumer extraordinaire. Botany required specimens: Miss McKeen, 
Collector, encouraged the building of a herbarium, into which teachers 
packed everything from dried wildflowers to a rare collection of Jap- 
anese ferns from Kyoto. By 1880 the zoological cabinet contained 
(among hundreds of other things) 81 Indian bird skins, and a number 


of bright-hued African birds sent by a missionary father in lieu of his 
daughter's tuition. A fine collection of shells bought at bargain price 
from a young missionary meant that there must be a Conchology 
course. Grandest of all was Abbot's telescope and observatory, a re- 
source almost unique in schools for young women when it was first 
acquired in 1875, anc ^ one ^ ne enough to be used by William M. Reed 
of the Harvard Observatory for several months of astronomical ob- 
servations in photometry. 

How did Abbot gather all these goods? The telescope was the result 
of a $1300 drive led by Latin- Astronomy teacher Mary Belcher among 
the students, and later among the Trustees. (A student-teacher of gym- 
nastics donated her entire $85.00 salary.) But Miss McKeen herself 
was the most gifted of gift-seekers. An example: she had long yearned 
to have a life-sized papier-mache model of a woman, with detachable 
limbs and organs, to supplement the Physiology class's ancient skele- 
ton. 18 She mentioned this wish every time she dared, pointedly remind- 
ing the Trustees that Bradford's Board "had lately presented their 
school with just such a model," 19 and as a last resort used the fiftieth 
anniversary History of Abbot Academy to declare the need in print. 
Whether in shame or in amusement— we can't know— the Trustees fi- 
nally ordered the model from Paris for $600.00. 

Professor Park connived with Miss McKeen to gain one of her most 
triumphant acquisitions. In 1877, she mentioned to him the need for a 
statue to decorate the teachers' platform in the Academy Hall. Park 
found a beautiful marble pedestal in Boston, and persuaded Trustee 
George Ripley to donate it. "A pedestal suggests a statue," observed 
Miss McKeen, 20 and of course no one could disagree. The McKeens 
asked Miss Emily Means, Abbot painting teacher on vacation in Paris, 
to find a statue suitable both as decoration and as illustration for Miss 
McKeen's ever-expanding Art History course. That year the students 
sold 5of tickets to the Draper Reading exercises, creating as much 
suspense as they could about the great unveiling. By the time the 
bronze copy of Michelangelo's Lorenzo of Urbino had been revealed 
to a packed audience, its whole cost ($240 in gold) had been returned 
to the school. 

Abbot had always promised order, but the McKeen sisters delivered 
it in spades. They loved schedules. Up at 6:00, breakfast at 6:30, clean 
your room— and perhaps a teacher's parlor as well. Though four Irish 
maids also helped out at $1.98 a week, the McKeens considered house- 
work part of education. As Lucy Larcom put it in her Neiv England 
Girlhood, "changes of fortune come so abruptly that the millionaire's 
daughter of to-day may be glad to earn her living by sewing or sweep- 


ing to-morrow." 21 Miss McKeen might ask a girl to help her change 
guest beds, questioning her the while on Butler's Analogy. Between 
8:00 and 9:00 a.m. older students often climbed the Hill for a Geology 
lecture while younger ones did their daily calisthenics, but all must be 
on hand for the Devotions that formally opened the school day. Be- 
fore mid-day dinner everyone wore gym suits with pantaloons, and 
skirts ten inches from the ground. Though bloomers were taboo at 
Abbot (one critic had termed them "one of the many manifestations of 
that wild spirit of socialism and agrarian radicalism which is ... so rife 
in our land"), 22 the gym suits were a crucial concession to comfort 
where the afternoon alternative was whalebone corsets and hems be- 
low the ankles. "I don't think I shall ever adopt bloomers," wrote an 
alumna of 1871, "but if anything could bring me to it, it would be the 
remembrance of how lightfooted and lighthearted I used to feel flitting 
about mornings in my gymnastic suit. I keep it still, and use it for a 
bathing dress." 23 

Recitations continued till 3:30, then came Recreation Hours, with 
time for walking in pairs, studying, mending, croquet, or (after 1886) 
tennis. Supper followed; the evening was an alternation of study hours, 
"half-hours" for individual meditation (roommates took these in turns 
so each girl could be alone once a day), and "quarters" for room-to- 
room visiting. Evening Devotions might mean anything from a hymn 
sing to a prayerful scolding. Bed at 10:00. 

Like many other schools, Abbot had its Saturday "composition day," 
dreaded by some as "the hobgoblin that stares us in the face" each 
week, 24 welcomed by others as a chance to write their minds on sub- 
jects like "Castles in the Air," "Kissing," or "Is it Best for a Lady with- 
out Superior Musical Talents to Study Music?" 25 Every student came 
to Hall, heard other students present the week's news or read an in- 
spiring selection, and took notes while a teacher or outside lecturer 
presented a subject worthy of an hour essay. Tuesday evening one 
could visit other dormitories. Wednesday was theoretically Recreation 
Day, free for unsupervised walks and chaperoned trips out of town. It 
was also, however, a rug-beating, mattress-turning clean-up day. One 
corridor teacher inspected with such vehemence that students would 
warn each other of her coming by a special five-fingered signal tap 
on the door, giving the inmate time to arrange bureau drawers and 
hide forbidden food. 

After 1873 all this was commanded by electric bells, the McKeens' 
pride and the students' bane. Mary Delight Twichell vented her feel- 
ings in a five- verse poem, "The Bells." Verse 4: 



10. The first of seven student sketches of life at Abbot, six by Harriet 
Chapell and one by Kate C. Geer. The one above is Harriet's sketch of 
herself on clean-up, from her Journal, 2$ February 1874. The other five 
sketches (Nos. 11-15) are between pages 96-108, below. 

Hear the sharp stroke of the bell, — 
The "tardy" bell! 
What a hurrying of footsteps does its sound foretell! 
What a scamper o'er the floors; 
What a banging of the doors; 
What a sighing o'er their fate, 
By those who are too late! 
Oh sudden tardy bell! 
Oh cruel tardy bell! 
Oh, bell, bell, bell, bell, 
bell, bell, bell! 
Why so quick with your click, tardy bell? 26 

Many of Abbot's offerings were not strictly scheduled. Periodically, 
Mr. Downs's students presented their own musicales to the community. 
A Townsman reporter of 1891 described "spirited and noble" rendi- 
tions of difficult music. 27 Favorites were Schubert symphonies arranged 
for eight hands, and part songs sung by the choir or (after 1887) the 
Fidelio Society. Romantic music dominated both student and profes- 

9 6 


sional recitals— a professional whistler specialized in Verdi opera arias— 
but on one occasion, Mr. Downs presented an extraordinary program 
in the Town Hall called "Precursors of the Piano," including solos and 
trio sonatas from J. S. Bach through Mozart and Beethoven to Paga- 
nini, played by Mr. M. Steinert and others on the Steinert collection: a 
clavichord, a 1630 spinet, a 1755 harpsichord, a bowed clavier, a ham- 
merclavier, a Vertical Grand piano of 1779, an 1815 pianoforte, and 
Abbot's contemporary Steinway Concert Grand. 

Abbot's most exciting home-grown event was always the Draper 
Reading, begun in 1868 with a thirty dollar donation by Irene Rowley 
Draper, '43, a sum that was later increased to $40 each year. It started 
as an elocution contest similar to the Prize Readings Mr. Warren 
Draper had initiated at Phillips Academy, but the McKeen sisters and 
Professor Wesley Churchill, Abbot's part-time elocution teacher, soon 
decided there should be less competition and more instruction. After 
this, sixteen or twenty readers were elected by the students for a run- 
off reading, and half of them were chosen by both students and teach- 
ers to receive private teaching from Seminary Professor Churchill in 
preparation for the final Reading. The Draper Readings usually took 
place at graduation ("Anniversary") time— grand occasions followed 
always by a party for the readers and the Seniors in the Churchills' 
home. Thus a close association with Professor Churchill was the real 
prize. So widely known was Churchill's skill that Matthew Arnold 
came to him for coaching before making a speaking tour of the United 

mf ts 

&*f fex>&Ls ^-^oO &&»-&<-*. 

' r 


11. Chapell Sketch: A Draper Reader with "Miss Phebe and teachers "Miss 
McKeen and Professor Churchill watching, 27 May 1974. 


States. A warm-hearted, urbane man, a lover of language whether in 
the Bible or elsewhere, he encouraged Abbot students to select from 
a wide— if safe— variety of readings. (A letter to the Andover Adver- 
tiser of 23 February 1880 described a course of four lectures Churchill 
gave in Baltimore, saying that "some Baltimorians seem dazed to find 
so much fun coming out of staid New England.") In time Churchill 
became Trustee as well as valued friend of Abbot. 

Debates and tableaux also had their places in the occasional enter- 
tainments given by student literary societies, or at the Anniversary it- 
self, where in 1875 tne Seniors contended over the question whether 
the sixteenth or the nineteenth century had contributed most to world 
civilization. Gradually, a carefully rehearsed Exhibition took the place 
of Abbot's summer oral examinations. After 1883 all serious academic 
evaluation was done by teachers through written exams, and the Anni- 
versary became Abbot's end-of-year celebration. 

Visitors to Abbot or Andover were an important resource for both 
students and teachers. Students would go to Town Hall "in a body" to 
hear a comic lecture by John Gough or an exhortation on the "demon 
of intemperance." (Miss McKeen, a fervent temperance advocate, 
somehow arranged for the proceeds of this last to be donated to the 
Abbot Art department.) They climbed to the Seminary for a lecture 
on the relation of science to the Christian religion, or welcomed Pro- 
fessor William W. Clapp to the Academy Hall for his winter series of 
Shakespeare lectures, and were impressed by Clapp's "revelation of 
Shylock in all his malice and cruelty as the natural outgrowth of years 
of hatred and prejudice on the part of Christians." 28 They were hosts 
to Professor Charles A. Young of Princeton, who lived at Abbot for a 
week in 1891 and gave interested girls an intensive course in Astrono- 
my. 29 They enjoyed frequent literary lectures by "Mrs. Professor 
Downs" (Annie Sawyer Downs) with wondrous stereopticon views of 
Southern English cathedrals and Lake District cottages; they heard 
snowy-haired Bronson Alcott, "the venerable conversor of Concord," 
talk about his daughters. 30 Especially, they were moved by Helen 
Keller, who came at age 13 with her teacher for the first of several 
overnight visits. Helen delighted in the vibrations she could feel from 
the piano music played by her Senior hostesses, and in the shapes of 
the art room's plaster cast collection, quite large by 1 890. Nero seemed 
"Proud," she observed. "It is sorrow" she said, as she passed her hands 
over Niobe's face. On hearing Helen's thank-you letter to the School, 
one girl wept; another said, "Think of her being so grateful for what 
she has, and see what a pig I am." 31 

Wednesday and Saturday afternoons were often used for special 


trips to Boston's museums, to Concord with Annie Sawyer Downs, 
who had grown up there with the Alcott children, to the ocean, 
to Lawrence's Pacific Mills and its Cathedral, where— wrote Harriet 
Chapell, '76— the confession boxes "looked like small barrooms to our 
Protestant eyes." Harriet was "stirred way down deep" by a painting 
in a Boston art gallery. 32 The Cambridge Botanical Gardens made a 
favorite destination, especially when a Harvard Professor of Botany 
brought everyone to his house afterward for a talk about his own col- 
lection. Several Physiology classes were invited to the lecture room of 
a professor at the New England Female Medical College, where they 
examined "preparations and models with the benefit of her instruc- 
tions." 33 One spring fifteen girls traveled by beachwagon to Dan vers 
to visit the tomb of Rebecca Nourse, hanged witch (also progenitor of 
two twentieth-century Abbot students), and to meet the poet Whit- 
tier in his home. 

Ordinarily only the wealthier students could take advantage of a 
Boston Wagner festival or concert of Bach's Passion music, and theater 
attendance was proscribed for everyone; but in 1890 Miss McKeen 
unbent so much as to encourage the whole Senior class to attend Ham- 
let, starring Edwin Booth. Their teacher had conducted an hour-long 
"Hamlet Match" in Shakespeare class that week, reading first lines of 
speeches to jog student recitations of the remaining lines, so they were 
well prepared. It was a perfect day. The Phillips Glee Club sang all 
the way in on the train; the play was relished as fully as were the ice 
cream sodas afterward ("chocolate, of course"), and the girls returned 
to a late tea that had been kept specially for them in Smith Hall. 34 

The town of Andover continued to be Abbot students' most im- 
mediate off-campus resource. Teachers urged them to supplement the 
small Abbot Library with books from the Theological Seminary col- 
lection of 37,000 volumes, limited in scope though this was by the 
strictures of the Calvinist Index Expurgatorius. Thus Abbot women 
probably had access to more books than Princeton undergraduates of 
the 1860's, whose 14,000 volume library was open exactly one hour 
each week until 1868. 35 After 1873 the E^ s went often to the town's 
Memorial Hall Library (with 7,000 volumes in 1880), to which Ab- 
bot's public-spirited Trustee Peter Smith and his business partners had 
given over $35,000. Andover's November Club for literary ladies met 
in the Academy Hall, and Abbot students were regularly invited to 
literary tableaux or charades in private homes and to conventions of 
the American Missionary Society, the American Temperance Society, 
and other Andover-based organizations. Far more than the other 


schools on Andover Hill, wrote Susannah Jackson, Abbot made con- 
stant use of the advantages offered by its home town. 

The Community of Women 

Abbot was no cloister then. It was a self-contained community of 
women in many respects, however, with conscious and unconscious 
borders which men might cross only upon invitation. The girls had 
"the freedom of the streets and fields," as the McKeen sisters wrote, 36 
but their walks to Sunset Rock and their botanizing or nutting expedi- 
tions on Indian Ridge were For Women Only. One can be sure this 
rule was broken often enough by individuals (Abbot's most famous 
sleigh ride had a Phillips boy along disguised as a girl). 37 Still, it was 
formally honored. Twenty-one nut-gatherers all dressed in gym suits 
fled so fast when they spotted a theologue in the tree above them that 
they never gathered a single chestnut, and lost their way in a swamp 
in their rush to get back to Smith Hall. 38 

Abbot might be a Family, but women commanded it, keeping a use- 
ful distance between themselves and the male Trustees or visiting teach- 
ers. Particularly in New England, where women substantially outnum- 
bered men, the unmarried teacher held an honorable role. Abbot's 
women and girls could enjoy one another as persons without self-con- 
sciousness or shame. One thinks of Victorian women as confined, and 
so they were. They could not openly initiate friendship with boys or 
men; they were expected to hide their interest in sex or to subsume it 
within coquettish formulae, no matter how interested they really were. 
Partly because of this relative isolation from men, however, loving, 
lasting friendships between women could quietly thrive, modeled often 
on the close mother-daughter or sister-sister relationships that existed 
apart from men's affairs. 39 

Abbot's increasingly varied group of students offered a fair field 
both for close and for casual friendships. Educational historian Patricia 
Graham points out that this was an era when girls from upper-middle- 
income families almost routinely spent a year or more in boarding 
school. 40 There was more money about for the education of fewer 
children. The birth rate was falling steadily, especially in cities; by 
the century's close, it would be 3.5 for each married woman, or just 
half what it had been in 1 800. 41 Even a short stay at Abbot was an im- 
portant respite from domesticity for those who would marry at twenty- 
two or twenty-three, the average age for marriage among women dur- 


ing the last half of the century. True, Abbot could no longer draw 
many students of small means, for tuition-boarding charges kept slow- 
ly rising: they were never lowered after wartime inflation subsided; 
they increased to $300 a year in 1876. Still, they remained lower than 
Bradford's and Vassar's until 1890. 42 Scholarship endowments (totaling 
$6,000 in 1880 and $1 1,500 in 1890) made it possible to welcome a few 
overseas missionaries' daughters and other desirable candidates for 
whatever their parents could pay. 

Andover was ideally situated between city and village to attract 
students from both. Each decade more rising city businessmen, nostal- 
gic about their rural childhoods and disturbed by the "overwhelming 
dislocations of the giant cities" 43 with their "frenzied commercial spirit 
and . . . dazzling entertainments" sent Abbot their urban-raised daugh- 
ters as though to free them from this "prime source of corrupting in- 
fluences for the young." 44 Yet the school did not suffer the fate of the 
many small-town academies whose local constituencies were weaken- 
ing or disappearing altogether. Once-proud Adams Academy just fif- 
teen miles to the north was absorbed by the Derry public school sys- 
tem soon after its fiftieth anniversary in 1872, partly because "many of 
the old families which made Derry society famous had thinned out or 
passed away." 45 And Adams was only one of hundreds of dying acade- 
mies. Meanwhile, Abbot's small Western contingent was growing along 
with its urban one, the girls' parents undoubtedly aware that Boston 
with its satellites had become unique for its "aristocratic culture" in a 
nation where "distinction of manners and dress . . . dignity and repose" 
had been replaced by a "bumptious restlessness, a straining for origi- 
nality and individuality that exuded in a shoddy and meaningless gro- 
tesque." 46 Antoinette Louise Bancroft, '83, of Galesburg, Illinois, wrote 
to her brother that "nearly half" of the students were from the West. 
(This could only be accurate if Antoinette included western Massa- 
chusetts and New York and Pennsylvania; only fourteen out of 115 
girls came from Ohio, Illinois, or further west in 1882-83.) She could 
"tell a Western girl" almost as soon as she saw her "by her dignity," 
while Eastern girls were "easy to get acquainted with," and "always 
kissing each other." This Eastern sanctuary also had its boors, and An- 
toinette said so in response to her brother's anxious warnings. "Do you 
think I will be laughed at when there are girls around me who have to 
be told that one should keep the mouth closed while eating?" she asked 
her brother. "Now please don't tell me any more nonsense." 47 So much 
for his advice. 

A few Southerners came, too. One of them, Harriet Elizabeth Gib- 
son, wrote in 1879 that "a Southerner feels lonely here in New En- 


gland, where she finds no friendly black faces ... no real plantation 
'Ha! ha!' to disturb the busy buzz of New England air; no kind flat- 
tering black auntie to attend to all her wants; no merry black uncle 
to . . . interpret her dreams, and tell her fortune. Most of all she finds 
no time for this dreaming. Everyone is in a hurry, and hurry is con- 
tagious." 48 Despite her complaints, Harriet Gibson stayed on, graduated 
in 1 88 1, and accompanied her physician husband to Korea, where she 
became the first woman missionary to that country. Not a single stu- 
dent of recent immigrant stock can be found in the McKeens' Abbot 
Academy, however. One graduate of 1887 felt she must explain to her 
classmates that her great-grandfather was "an Irishman but a gentle- 
man." 49 The majority continued to come from New England in spite 
of its growing numbers of public schools. 50 "Our public schools give 
us little real culture," an Abbot girl complained in 1884. 51 Parents were 
looking (one supposes) for smaller classes at a time when the ideal size 
of a public school class was considered by the "experts" to be forty- 
five or fifty students; 52 they wanted their daughters to have special op- 
portunities to learn a foreign language or a Christian's heritage, or, in 
the case of the older students, a chance for a refined "higher educa- 
tion" beyond public high school, with curriculum offerings similar to 
those of most women's colleges before the founding of Bryn Mawr. 53 
One of an Abbot historian's most interesting and useful sources is 
the journal of Harriet Chapell, '76, written from January 1874, the year 
Harriet left her home in New London, Connecticut, through 18 No- 
vember 1877, six weeks a ^ ter she married Frederick Newcomb. Spirited, 
mischievous daughter of the vice-president of a New London Whaling 
and Guano firm, she may have been sent to Abbot because she was 
such a handful at home— at least her mother wrote her in April of her 
first year a "dear, good letter," saying that "she thinks I have improved 
a good deal." 54 Whatever the reasons, we are lucky she came, and 
luckier still that she left this 254-page illustrated record of a girl grow- 
ing up in the community of women. She seldom mentions teachers or 
lessons, though she spent much time in the painting studio and was 
occasionally "taken by storm" by a visiting lecturer, such as Charles 
Kingsley. When teachers do appear in Hattie's first-year record, they 
are there to interfere with more important activities. Or they are mer- 
cifully absent. "Miss McKeen was in Boston, so we had a jolly time at 
our table." 55 When she's home, "Philo" is always on the lookout. One 
evening "in half-hour"— that is, during meditation time— "we were all 
having a nice lively time in the music room, dancing— squarely— like 
mad, when Miss McKeen opened the door and read us one little lec- 
ture about the exercise— must be confined to the gym and the day time, 



etc. Louie Karr stood behind her as you see and made up all sorts of 
faces and gestures. I do think she is just as jolly and splendid as she 
can be, though I know she can be awfully cutting if she chooses. 
Hattie Aiken too is full of the old cat if she wants to be. She looked 
for all the world like Mr. Tyler this evening, as she was Helen Bart- 
lett's gent (in the dancing). So we had a grand time all round." 56 

12. Chapell sketch: "Dancing squarely like mad" 7 April 1874. 

Again, "Miss Palmer gave us all a little lecture at devotions tonight 
about whistling . . . perfectly scathing— and you see everybody knew 
who she meant . . . well, everybody thinks I am a reprobate, so I sup- 
pose I am one, but . . . they can think what they like for all I care." 57 

Harriet's day is filled with conversations, walks downtown to buy 
sweets, and parties to enjoy them (an eternal preoccupation of school- 
girls, in spite of Miss McKeen's injunctions against "eatables" bought 
in town or sent from home: "the effect is wholly evil"), 58 throwing 
snowballs, sliding in the trunk room, or sloshing through Andover's 
famous spring mud— and dropping her hymnbook and stomping upon 
it— on the way up the Hill to Professor Park's Sunday sermon. 59 

The Journal's major actors are Hattie's many girl-friends and her 
few girl-enemies, richly described; the plots center on expeditions, 
escapades,, and quarrels begun or made up. Tilly and Lizzie are her 
first favorites, especially "dear little Lizzie" Abbott, who comes from 
Andover but boards at the Academy. It is not in class, so far as Harriet 
tells us, but with these friends that "lots of conversation on a number 
of moral and metaphysical points" takes place. Harriet might make a 
botch of the "topic" she has to give in "Hall," but she and Lizzie 
"read considerable together," one sewing while the other reads aloud 



from the Pickwick Papers, or Thomas Bailey Aldrich's Prudence Pal- 
frey. At supper table they take the parts of fictional characters (Hattie 
is Prue) or after supper they give "a little musicale among them- 
selves." 60 Harriet begins her Abbot years in South Hall, rooming with 
Mame Green "who is very lively and keeps us all in a roar most of the 
time," 61 but by mid-winter, Hattie is "crazy to get over (to Smith 
Hall) to live," where the "halls are full of girls and noise." Miss Mc- 
Keen engineers the change, and she and Lizzie move into one of the 
12' X 12' rooms together. 

Lizzie is Hattie's "Darling girl," 62 a "motherless little soul . . . short 
and fat, but not overgrown, with blue eyes and lovely golden hair" 
which she lets fly every day but Sunday. Like nearly all Abbot board- 
ers, the two girls shared a bed. Even before they roomed together, 
they arranged with their teachers and with other girls to exchange 
bedfellows, and "had a right warm, cosy time together." 63 The re- 
tiring bells meant practically nothing to friends determined to talk. 
Often enough, Hattie, Tillie, Lizzie, and Mame spent much of the night 
at it, on one occasion going back to bed just before breakfast to warm 
each other up. 

Lizzie proved to be "a perfect treasure of a roommate." The two 
kept together all they could. They played ball, they collected wild- 
flowers and copied epitaphs in the graveyard, they gave each other 

13. Chapell sketch: Buying "comfits" downtown, 24 April 1874. 



UCc^i- PojJbJL: 

"M&yUu^cUf ted*, 

14. Geer sketch: Bedfellows, 1882, from Kate Geer's copybook. 

their journals and letters to read. On a Sunday afternoon when there 
was no church service, they "spent part of [their] time on the bed, 
reading and snuggling up close to each other by turns." 64 

The physical closeness these two enjoyed in no way suggests any 
serious or lasting homosexual interest. They had "endless things to talk 
about" precisely because each one had "a somebody at home." 65 Har- 
riet often spent a happy Recreation Day walking in the woods with 
her visiting Fred, then returned to her "cosy bed" and Lizzie at night. 
When Lizzie did not come back in September, Harriet went through 


a period of dreariness and longing; but by November she was making 
new friends, and comforting herself with the thought that she and 
Lizzie would always love one another, and would visit often in each 
other's homes after they were married. Occasionally she went to Liz- 
zie's house to enjoy some "real talk" and "real food," and have "a very 
good time together, such as only girls can have." 66 

The second year, Hattie's Fred, a hometown boy several years older 
than she, won her secret promise to marry him. 67 Increasingly, her love 
for Fred absorbed her feelings and "guided all [her] life." 68 She began 
to long for marriage, even though she felt "a kind of dread and regret 
at leaving behind my happy girl life." As things turned out, she never 
did leave behind her pleasure in other girls and women. A few weeks 
after her marriage, she and Fred visited an old New London friend, 
and while Fred talked with the husband, the two wives shared old and 
new interests. When it was time to leave, Hattie wrote, "I could not 
bear to go away from them, and Alice clung to me— she felt truly that 
I understood her deep feeling as no one else save a woman could have 
done." 69 Harriet Chapell's daughter, Ruth Wetmore Newcomb, '10, 
remembers her as the warmest of mothers and friends, strict enough 
but "full of fun" to the end of her long life. 70 

Throughout Abbot's first half-century, one finds ample evidence of 
friendships such as these between the girls who boarded at the Acade- 
my. They were part of American life, open to discussion in print as 
well as in private. A letter to the Yale Courant of 1873 reported that 
"Vassar numbers her smashes by the score. [There are] bouquet-send- 
ings interspersed with tinted notes, mysterious packages of 'Ridley 
mixed candies,' locks of hair . . ." 71 and M. Carey Thomas' mother 
wrote her at Howland Institute, a Quaker boarding school, in response 
to Carey's description of her most intense relationship: "I guess thy 
feeling is quite natural. I used to have the same romantic love for my 
friends. It is a real pleasure" 72 

Until educators and psychologists began to scrutinize these deep 
same-sex friendships during the last quarter of the century, inspira- 
tional tracts and religious fiction put them on holy ground. "Love is 
with me a religion," wrote one young woman. Its nature precludes any 
element that is "not absolutely pure and sacred." But this unfortunate 
recorded her feelings too late in the century. Quoting her, psychologist 
Havelock Ellis stated that such sentiments had come "under the ban 
of society," numbered her "case #29," and wrote darkly of "sexual 
inversion." 73 The male psychologists' judgments would look like mere 
Freudian prudery were not women beginning to make them too. A re- 
search committee fielded by the Association of Collegiate Alumnae 


(later the American Association of University Women) concluded that 
"smashing" led to sleeplessness and emotional exhaustion; it advocated 
expanded physical education programs to provide for "healthier" dis- 
charge of physical and emotional energies. 74 Thus toward the end of 
the McKeen era there were a few Abbot adults who frowned on 
friendships like Hattie's and Lizzie's, instead of smiling. Student letters, 
journals, and the messages scrawled on yearbooks all suggest that the 
friendships continued anyway. It took years for student realities to 
catch up with the new adult anxieties. 

Harriet Chapell might seldom mention them, but the resident teach- 
ers were essential members of this community of women, drawing 
strength from it as they gave themselves to it. They had not come to 
Abbot solely to earn money. A few had incomes of their own, if elabo- 
rate summer travel is any indicator of wealth. Occasionally one would 
leave to teach in public school, where salaries were higher, or another 
would importune the Trustees for a raise, as French teacher Maria 
Stockbridge Merrill did in 1881: "I have felt this year that I can not 
come back for the salary I am receiving now— $400— ," 75 What Abbot 
did provide was a living, a place of dignity for an unmarried woman in 
a large, bustling Family. 

Under the no-nonsense McKeens, Abbot had its rules to regulate the 
Family's life— a long list not shortened until late in the McKeen era. 
Abbot was similar in this respect to the other female institutions of the 
day, and more liberal than some. Mary Sharp College in Tennessee 
and Wesleyan Female College in Cincinnati also forbade walking out 
alone or using nicknames; but Abbot published no injunctions against 
making purchases without permission as these colleges did, nor did it 
share Elmira College's prohibitions against "light and trifling conversa- 
tions," or "meeting in companies in each others' rooms for purposes of 
festivity." 76 Abbot Academy's aim continued to be "self-regulation," 
just as it had been in earlier decades. One means toward this goal was 
"self -reporting," a much-vaunted honor system which asked the peni- 
tent at each confession to consider whether her offense was "avoid- 
able or unavoidable?" Supposed to preserve trust between students 
and teachers, self-reporting actually seems to have created more guilt 
and teacher-avoidance than anything else. Again and again one reads 
the Abbot girl's lament: "You can't have any fun here, for if you do, 
you have to go and report on yourselves." 77 Naturally, a Stowe daugh- 
ter would be the first to object. "Miss Phebe says it makes us truthful" 
to give our self-reports every night, wrote one student. "Miss Georgie 
Stowe expressed her mind quite freely," saying the reports were not 


much use, "probably because she makes so many of them herself." 78 

"Miss McKeen's lecture this afternoon was on eating, and it made us 
mad," wrote one girl to her parents. It was terribly hard for some Ab- 
bot girls to adjust to "the rigorous ordering of our ways." 79 Surely 
some never did. American children were known the world over for 
their overindulged precociousness. "Democratic sucklings!" one En- 
glishman sputtered— "the theory of the equality of man is rampant in 
the nursery!" 80 Lucy Larcom in her New England Girlhood tells how 
she "clung to the child's inalienable privilege of running half-wild." 
To her, "the transition from childhood to girlhood ... is practically 
the toning down of a mild sort of barbarianism, and is often attended 
by a painfully awkward self-consciousness." 81 But Abbot teachers' af- 
fection eased many girls through girlhood toward womanhood. "The 
hearty welcome" from the McKeens that each student received in 
September 82 was always a good beginning. For every cross teacher 
there seem to have been at least two kind ones. Miss Merrill— who 
eventually got her raise and stayed on till 1907 83 — bent the ten o'clock 
curfew night after night. When the moon was full, she would take 
her girls for walks in the silver dark. She loved to read aloud to them, 
and they delighted each evening to hear her; they basked in her "gay 
friendliness" and "loved her devotedly." Often enough, Miss Merrill 
argued with these same students, "always disagreeing with us as equals" 
instead of lecturing them to make her point, as one alumna recalled 
years later. 84 Naturally, many students stole their pleasures where they 
could find them— but this was often done so blatantly that one can 
only suppose teachers were looking the other way. Now and then, the 
bell girl would provide her friends a welcome break from the tyran- 
nous schedule by simply failing to ring the bell; thus Harriet and Liz- 
zie had three quarters of an hour to chat on Lizzie's bed instead of a 
rushed "quarter." After-hours parties were a subject of special pride to 
the editors of '87's manuscript yearbook. Eight of the seventeen gradu- 
ates had participated in twenty-nine "midnight revelries" altogether, 
with "Emma T.," that "wicked but happy mortal," having attended 
eight herself. 85 It is interesting that this bold accounting was made 
public before Commencement. In spite of Miss McKeen's warnings 
that breaking rules was "taking poison," 86 everyone graduated. The 
teachers cannot have been such terrible ogres after all. "Last evening 
at tea," wrote Harriet Chapell after a unique Recreation Day, 

we were joking and laughing, saying we guessed we would lie in 
bed till noon today, when Miss Palmer astounded us all by telling 
us we might stay in bed till noon, indeed, we need not have any 

108 SOLID ACQUIREMENTS, 1852-1892 

rules until dinner time, when we must appear. I suppose she 
thought we boarding school girls would go through anything 
rather than lose one meal, but we took her up, and not one of 
us eight girls was down to breakfast. It was so cosy and warm to 
cuddle down in bed with Mame, and hear Miss Palmer and Mrs. 
Watson having their devotions all alone in the music room,— we 
had hard work to keep from laughing out loud. 

Of course they made their own breakfast later from the snack crackers 
always available in the closet, and jelly, figs, nuts, and chocolate sent 
from home. "We did just as we pleased all the long morning, entered 
rooms, had lunch every few minutes and did all manner of outlandish 
things." 87 

"Philo" herself created special occasions: an hours-long sleigh ride 
one Washington's Birthday for everyone who was healthy enough to 
stand the cold, a surprise "Orange Party" in Smith Hall for which she 
and the teachers arranged into pyramids and patterns the hundreds of 
oranges sent by a friend from Florida. On the night of October 2, 
1875, there was a total eclipse of the moon. Miss McKeen had a student 
ring the bell fifty times at 2 a.m., and all who wanted to watch it 
brought pillows down to the back veranda. Harriet and her friends 
"lay there an hour or so, looking all the time and having an easy time." 88 
Then, of course, there was that greatest occasion of Abbot's nine- 
teenth century history, the Semicentennial celebration in June 1879. 
Phillips Principal Bancroft assisted the McKeens with the preparations, 
and the Phillips Glee Club gave a concert to raise money for the great 
day. Invitations went out to every known alumna, to college presi- 
dents throughout New England, to the Massachusetts Governor and 
the United States President (who sent their polite regrets). Students 
scoured the buildings to prepare for the Old Scholars, then decked 
them with bunting. Two thousand guests lunched under a great pavil- 
lion set up on the lawn near South Church. 89 All of Phillips Academy 
and the Theological Seminary arrived in time for the speeches, which 
on paper look endless: fifty years was worth at least three hours' ora- 
tory in those days, and after all, no ex-principal (so long as he was 
male) or parent/college president or university professor could be left 
out. Not a single woman spoke, but multitudes of young women must 
have been glad of Trustee Egbert Smyth's final announcement to the 
youths from the Hilltop: 

The stern dame whom all her daughters love as Alma Mater has 
said to me very privately— so that no one else heard the pleasant 
tune of her voice, or saw the lambent flame in her eye— that, for 






1 Jr. 

1 ' -4- 


1$. Chapell sketch: The eclipse, 17 October 1874. 

all, to-day and to-morrouo are as TUESDAY evening; and, that . 
till the shades of evening fall the second time, all her daughters 
may be to you as your sisters, and your cousins, and your aunts. 

That is, for once no special parent sanction was required for male 
callers outside the girls' families. 

Miss McKeen felt herself particularly responsible for the Smith Hall 
girls' character and behavior. She was a less formal person in Smith 
Hall, "her only home," than she was as an academic principal, remem- 
bered one alumna. "This strong, serene head of our matriarchy to 
whom we confessed our sins . . . had a remarkable opportunity to 
know each one for what she really was. She certainly was very keen 
to detect subterfuge or untruth, and equally just in commending hon- 
esty." While students' individuality was less encouraged than was con- 


formity to "a standardized type . . . we were her family ... in whom 
she was constantly striving to awaken and develop Christian woman- 
liness." 90 

As in the early Abbot, religious conversion was still sometimes the 
ultimate solution to conflict between an adult and a girl or young 
woman, or a young woman's struggles with herself. Phebe McKeen's 
novel of boarding life, Thornton Hall? 1 accepted by her contempo- 
raries as a barely disguised description of Abbot in the 1860's and 70's, 
emphasizes the religious character of all social exchanges. While its 
plot rambles along like some spinster soap opera, its complex charac- 
ters with their intricate human tangles suggest Phebe's own powerful 
sympathy and understanding as a resident teacher in Abbot's com- 
munity of women. The community is wide and deep: it includes the 
reserved Miss Atherton, inwardly hurt by the desertion of her "half- 
ruined brother" and her "stolen sister" 92 (probably Abbot's Tace 
Wardwell, whom students held in "especial awe"), 93 as well as the 
open-hearted Miss Lincoln. Behind scenes stand parents, one father 
virtuous but poor, another amoral and indulgent. 

The Thornton Hall teachers leave girls alone to work trouble out 
themselves until a real crisis looms. Virginia Raleigh "loved her few 
friends with passionate intensity, and she demanded the same in re- 
turn. No love seemed to her real which was not exclusive." She became 
jealous of Kate Campbell's other friendships. As for "merry Kate," 
Virginia was to her "the desire of her eyes!" but "what right had she 
to try to manage her so? She ought to be satisfied with what she well 
knew was given her— dearest love." 94 

For several days, Virginia Raleigh went about with a kind of 
marble hardness in her face, and passed her late friend, every- 
where, without seeming to see her. Even the little acts of com- 
mon courtesy which Kate offered, she ignored. The girls were 
asking each other, "What has come over Kate Campbell?" "Had 
a flare-up with Miss Raleigh— don't speak to each other," was a 
sufficient answer. 

Finally Miss Lincoln called Virginia to her room. "I know your soul 
sets deep and strong towards the few you love," she tells Virginia, 
"but . . . you cannot be Christlike while you are utterly indifferent to 
all but your chosen few." . . . 

Virginia's heart was touched by the blending of love and indig- 
nant sorrow in the face of her friend. She threw her arms 
around her saying, "But He is divine." 


I I I 

CI! UMT.k Y. 

( )R sc\ cral da) s, \ 
Raleigh went about with 
a kind of marble hardi 
in her [ace, and pass< d her 
late friend, everywh 
without seeming to 
her. \.\ en the little a< ts 
of common com i 
which Kate- offered, she 
ignored. The girls \\ ere 
asking each other, " V 
has c< >me over Kate ( 'a 

,i 1 [ad a flare-up 
with Mi^s Raleigh don't 
speak t< i each i >thcr/' \\ as 
a sufficient an 

After things had b ; on in this way for 

oil a week, Miss Lim i In senl for the two gii Is 

1 6. "Kate and Virginia" of Thornton Hall, illustrator unknown. (Edward 
O. Jenkins, "printer and stereotyper") 

112 SOLID ACQUIREMENTS, 1852-1892 

"Yes, dear, but we are His offspring, and He meant to teach 
us how to love. It seems to me a dreadful waste, Virginia, for 
one to carry a great warm heart like yours through life, wrapped 
up in selfishness and pride." . . . 

"But I can't be unselfish," groaned Virginia. "I love papa and 
mamma, and you and Kate, and one other; and I want you all, 
all, all, to myself." 

"The only way for you, darling, is to give your heart to your 
heavenly Father," said her friend, very tenderly. "Loving God, 
you would come to love your brother also." 

Virginia lifted her eyes, dewy with tears, kissed the lips that 
had spoken so plain truth to her, and went silently away to her 
room. 95 

Finally, Virginia was able to "love the Savior," even though her con- 
version cost her the suit of a rakish sophomore from the neighboring 
college for young men. 

Phebe McKeen doubtless had her sister in mind when she created 
Miss Douglass, the principal of Thornton Hall. Many a girl's headstrong 
rebellion against rules or roommate ended in penitent weeping upon 
Miss Douglass' lap, or in student and principal kneeling together to 
pray. Abbot letters and diaries suggest that such encounters were com- 
mon in the real-life Academy. Harriet Chapell's journal describes how 
first Lizzie, then Harriet herself talks at length with Miss McKeen 
when each is gathering courage to join the church and "become a 

As Harriet's Abbot years go on, adults gradually join the other 
people who are helping her toward maturity. First and youngest of her 
helpers is Lizzie, with her "loveliness that is born of a Christlike spirit," 
whom she cares for like a little mother during the frequent illnesses that 
eventually keep Lizzie home from Abbot for good. Lizzie is "such a 
darling, confiding little thing." She "helps me to be good more than 
anyone can ever know." Her later friend Jessie Cole is an excellent 
student, editor of Courant and "a jewel right through." Harriet re- 
spects her, and tries hard to emulate her. Fred regularly holds long 
talks with her about religion, and describes to her the Baptist revivals 
at which he has been speaking back in New London. "I do want to be 
better," Harriet writes in December of her second year, "more as Lizzie 
and Fred believe me to be." With the passing of time, we read less and 
less of Smith Hall shenanigans, more of her absorption in painting and 
bible reading. Instead of being annoyed by confining weather, a day 


of rain increases her sense of "myselfness." Sundays are now "quiet and 
solemn" times. She no longer naps during church sermons, but finds 
the services beautiful and inspiring. 96 

Harriet's parents become dearer with distance. Deep into her first 
Abbot spring, she writes, "Now that they miss me so much more than 
usual, I feel that I ought to do everything I can for them." After her 
"blessed father's" death over the summer of 1874, she thinks and won- 
ders often about heaven. Her love for Fred increasingly seems to her 
a holy thing, as does his for her. "Surely there never was a nobler, 
tenderer lover," she writes after one of his visits to Abbot— prolonged 
a day in spite of Miss McKeen's displeasure. 97 Abbot does not so much 
create Harriet's growth as it grudgingly or encouragingly gives it 

Students had always organized clubs and enjoyed rituals at Abbot. 
During the stable McKeen years, student organizations and traditions, 
once seeded, could evolve uninterrupted by administrative upheaval. 
To be sure, some were short-lived: rival boat clubs (the Nereids and 
the Undines) did not survive the graduation of their six members in 
1874, and the Cecilia Society lasted just two years and several musical 
soirees. The Sphinx had ten years to live up to its name, gained "from 
the fact that the Sphinx (ancient) was the embodiment of feminine 
wisdom and strength." The Sphinx was much like Phillips students' 
Philomathean Society in form. "What do we do? Our program is 
varied. At times debate arouses us to give more of a reason than the 
woman's 'because.' " 98 At other times the twenty to thirty members 
would spend an evening reading aloud from a favorite book and acting 
out characters and scenes (these activities at times must have verged 
dangerously close to theater), or would mount their own minstrel 
shows, or exchange extemporaneous speeches on historical or current 
political issues. 

Most important of organizations was Courant and its editorial 
board. This enduring periodical was begun by students in 1873 and 
warmly encouraged by the faculty. Alumnae remembered the ex- 
citement that filled the school when it was founded, for few female 
seminaries or colleges had published anything so ambitious. The Cou- 
rant editors were the acknowledged intellectual leaders of the school. 
Their meetings ranged wide: "Very dire were the discussions as to 
why a girl's mind was not constructed to endure the strain of com- 
petition," wrote Alice Merriam Moore, '74, who served on the first 
editorial board, and soon after her graduation became co-editor with 
her husband of a small Michigan newspaper. 99 Early Courant writing 

114 SOLID ACQUIREMENTS, I 85 2- I 892 

is particularly lively: a fashion column; "St. Selmo," a take-off of the 
novel-melodrama St. Elmo; travel essays from Rome and Egypt; an 
essay comparing the French poet Boileau with Horace; editorial "com- 
miseration to the unfortunate Harvard freshman who was seized while 
attempting to enter our Academy on Hallowe'en" (and later jailed 
overnight); 100 news of lectures or Draper Readings for alumnae ("the 
old scholars will be glad to know . . ."); and feisty editorial comments 
on practically everything. "It has been said that girls can write only 
nonsense," wrote the first editors (among them Clara Hamlin, Senior 
Editor for 1873). 101 These editors expose the nonsense around them. 
They freely criticize other school and college publications. They have 
a wonderful time with a dead-serious poem called "Willie's Prize," 
which they have read in the Phillips boys' Philomathean Mirror. "It is 
neither epic nor lyric in its character," they write. "Indeed, it seems to 
usher in a new era in letters." In the poem Willie describes to "his 
mamma" his sorrow at losing a prize competition. Finally, he sobs him- 
self to sleep on her lap: "Under the tender lids a flow/of humid grief 
came stealing." The Couranfs editors are merciless: 

We appreciate, as never before, the grandeur of that self- 
command which they [the Phillips students] preserve through- 
out the trying ordeal of defeat, though their little hearts are 
swelling well-nigh to bursting. We infer that Willie thought 
that only a manly soul could endure this tremendous grief, for 
he asks earnestly, 

"Do women have ambition?" 
Yes, Willie, they do. 102 

They even take on the Reverend Henry Ward Beecher, who spoke on 
"Education" in Town Hall. "To those who had listened to him before, 
he seemed a faint suggestion of the great Beecher, he was so far below 
his own mark. We hope that all who heard him as a lecturer may hear 
the preacher; and we know they will wonder that he can put his 
grand powers to such inferior uses." 103 

Courant had proudly begun as a periodical unread by faculty till 
after publication, but rather quickly some of this life goes out of it. 
The right of adult scrutiny was eventually asserted. Indeed, it is amaz- 
ing that the faculty held off for six years, for censorship was taken for 
granted in those times. The Knife and The Fork, rival class newspapers 
for '71 and '72 had died under the McKeens' critical glare. Bradford 
Academy's Lantern editors would print only one issue in 1887, and 
even this was never sold because an editor had dared to criticize a 
lecture given by a Trustee. Around 1879, the year Phebe McKeen re- 


signed as faculty adviser, the C our ant becomes tame: no more cutting 
criticism of other school and college periodicals, no ironic comments 
about Abbot's rules. The essays "are too prim and precise," complained 
the Fhillipian in 1883, as if the writers feared "some dreadful punish- 
ment" for using less conventional styles. 104 By 1888 Miss McKeen her- 
self is editing the "Driftwood" section— news for the Dear Old Girls. 
In the June 1889 issue seven of the Driftwood's nine pages describe 
religious occasions or speakers; one more whole page is devoted to the 
cute sayings of "Abbot grandchildren." It is hard to tell who is con- 
trolling the article content. A pious alumna argues in "Some Danger- 
ous Tendencies" against elective courses, asserting that "the late labor 
troubles" (probably the Chicago Haymarket riots) show how "un- 
limited freedom is often abused." 105 The editors of 1889-90 are agog 
over a Coura?it writing contest for students and alumnae on the subject 
of "clover." 106 The winner's story begins, "Everything and everybody 
loved little White Clover." All the poetry suffers from the genteel 
tradition which, as Santayana pointed out, had long been a disease in 
New England. 

Still, there are some wonderful pieces in Courant: the best of student 
course papers (on "the Ramayana" and "Chaucer's Women," Novem- 
ber 1879); a graphic description of an Indian missionary station in 
Montana run by an alumna and her mother ("The first thing to be 
done was to give the children citizen's dress ... It was pitiful to see 
the old people waiting outside the door to ask for their children's 
hair.") 107 An indignant Courant editor might rail against the degenera- 
tion of written English among modern students, but Abbot's best writ- 
ing was very good indeed. The experience young women gained in 
organizations like the Sphinx and the Courant sharpened skills that 
would undergird lifetimes of involvement in women's clubs, churches, 
and reform groups. American girls might learn parliamentary proced- 
ure almost in fun, but the suffrage, temperance, and settlement house 
movements would use it in earnest, just as they drew strength from 
the adult network of woman friends and kin which for most boarding 
school alumnae was a continuation of the community of women they 
had known in their student days. 

Students' sense of identification with their own classes was much 
strengthened during the McKeen period. This process was well begun 
in the 1850's by Miss Hasseltine's precise classing of pupils, but it was 
enhanced by the increasing tendency of all girls to stay at least one full 
year instead of coming for a term or two, then leaving. 108 Class parties, 
class breakfasts at Sunset Rock, class sleigh rides, and class representa- 
tives on Courant all raised class consciousness. The Seniors were special, 



i j. A Picnic, i 

and knew it. Generally a small group of twelve, more or less, they felt 
themselves to be women, not girls, and at age twenty to twenty-two 
they usually were. 109 The Class of '73 prided itself on being the first to 
wear class pins, the first to "indulge in a class sleighride and form a 
baseball nine." 110 Every Senior class held special entertainments in Smith 
Hall. Sometimes they dressed up as classical Greeks (or gypsies or 
Japanese nobility), decorating their own Senior parlor accordingly, and 
inviting the school to enjoy a period tableau, a Virginia reel, or a "con- 
versation party" in which the contestants must hold a five-minute dis- 
cussion on questions such as "Does the incubated chicken love its mo- 
ther?" At other times, they invited their own special friends: favorite 


adults, nances from home, theologues from the Hilltop. In the fall of 
1878 they transformed the Academy Hall into a drawing room and in- 
vited 140 guests. On one occasion the Seniors danced ballroom figures 
in boy-girl couples, but Miss McKeen came in, told everyone what she 
thought of the new "positions," and responded to the few feeble pro- 
tests by asking, "How would you feel if the music stopped?" 111 

Graduation ("Anniversary") time was the biggest class party of the 
year, and the most solemn. It followed a flurry of preparations, during 
which the old cramming for examinations was little in evidence, and 
the "dissipations of closing weeks" were uppermost. 112 "Study is highly 
beneficial and quite interesting, but never less so than during the last 
week of the term," one student wrote. 113 The "Senior Exhibition" be- 
gan Anniversary Day with music, a French or German or Latin ora- 
tion, and essay reading in Hall. Then the whole school repaired to the 
Grove, the landscaped wood behind Smith Hall, for the reading of a 
Class History and the planting of the class vine or tree, with appropri- 
ate "Oak Song" or this "Pale Ivy" vine song of 1876: 

Symbol of our trust! When sorrow 

Darkens on our shadowy way, 
Be thou sign of bright to-morrow,— 

Climb to where the sunbeams play. 

(verse 1 of five verses) 114 

After the song and the "vine oration" came the presentation of the 
Class Spade to the president of the Senior Middle class, a change into 
white dresses, and the "charming procession . . . down the leafy path" 
to South Church. 15 There the school heard a Commencement address, 
and President Park of the Trustees would deliver a short sermon and 
present the diplomas. Traditionally, the Parting Hymn was sung by all 

Father, I know that all my life 

Is portioned out to me. 
The changes that will surely come 

I do not fear to see. 
I ask thee for a present mind 

Intent on pleasing thee. 116 

and traditionally, everyone wept. Thus were Abbot's graduates sent off 
with much the same advice that Maria Browne had given in 1857; ac- 
cept what comes; subdue your own desires; be of service to others. 

I 1 8 SOLID ACQUIREMENTS, 1852-1892 

Class mottoes underline it: 1874's was "Set Free to Serve"; 1880's, 
"Happy in my Lot." 

The noon or evening farewell party was a grand levee, a bewildering 
display (reported the Congregationalist) 117 of "feminine grace, per- 
sonal intelligence, and social culture." Finally, with a turn of the clock 
hand, the year's community of women dissolved, its particular human 
chemistry too intricate to be duplicated. 

Progress of a Victorian School 

Christ has established the soul-rights of women. 
Rev. James Hoppin to Abbot, 1856 

Even during its golden age, Abbot was not static. Its students and 
teachers underwent private evolutions that mirrored the changes taking 
place in the world beyond; Philena McKeen herself passed through 
stages of personal crisis and fresh-won assurance during her thirty- 
three year tenure. Some of Abbot's Victorian values grew stronger 
than ever: thrift, punctuality, the systemization of daily life, the ex- 
altation of the school "family"— they gradually became Abbot tradi- 
tions whose venerability was justification enough. Other Victorian 
ideas contained the seeds of their own destruction: if self-sufficiency, 
will power, and controlled drive were admirable in men, why might 
they not be so in women? As Abbot Academy developed its own re- 
sources apart from the male-dominated Hilltop, Abbot girls learned to 
be less submissive. Intersex relationships within the Abbot-Andover 
community, religious practices, and the Abbot students' evolving self- 
images reflected simultaneous tendencies to rigidity and change that 
characterized Victorian America. 

Male and Female 

The girls Harriet Chapell knew "went for men" no matter how "silly 
and conceited," "like sheep after salt." 1 The McKeen sisters realized 
this as fully as Harriet did, but took quite a different view of what to 
do about it. There is no suggestion that they feared or hated men: 
quite the contrary. "Many a love affair they sped on its way," remem- 
bered Anna Dawes, '70. 2 To be wife and mother was woman's sacred 
calling— but the McKeens felt that far too many girls rushed into mar- 
riage. 3 Every young woman must have protection while she carefully 
prepared and waited for the right man. To Phebe, speaking through 
her novel Theodora, a girl's beloved brothers were the best models and 

120 SOLID ACQUIREMENTS, 1852-1892 

guides for her choice of a husband; it is her martyred brother's com- 
rade-in-arms whom Theodora finally marries, after rejecting two ardent 
suitors. To Philena a minister was the ideal husband for an Abbot grad- 
uate, an orthodox parsonage the ideal home. 4 She was backed in this 
opinion by Professor Park, to whom "the great aim of Andover is to 
train the minds of women so they will prefer an intelligent preacher 
to a pretty one." 5 

The McKeens' immediate problem was to shelter the growing girl 
from her own "ominous sexual awakening," as a twentieth-century his- 
torian terms it. 6 The elderly Catharine Beecher described female ado- 
lescence more subtly as the "period when the young, especially the 
highly gifted, find an outbursting of sensibilities that they have not 
learned to control." 7 This concern with the special stress of puberty 
and sexual maturation was quite new to a society that had long con- 
sidered youth fourteen to twenty-one years old capable of adult labor 
in factory, farm or home, and of active participation in church affairs. 
Abbot did its bit to help invent the concept of adolescence: the Mc- 
Keen sisters erected a wall of rules to provide Abbot girls the needed 
protection, cutting chinks only in those places they themselves ap- 
proved. Chinks there were: calling hours Wednesdays and Saturdays— 
any time outside of prayer or study hours— provided callers had first 
been introduced to the girl's family. This was restrictive enough for 
girls far from home: "It was very funny that you should write about 
my behavior in society when I see no society at all," Antoinette Ban- 
croft wrote her oversolicitous brother. 8 Phillips boys' attendance at 
every Abbot occasion, when not forbidden outright, was ordained 
beforehand, and chief secret policeman Uncle Sam Taylor did his best 
to help the McKeens keep control, with the assistance of student spies. 
Phillips alumnus Nathaniel Niles described how the invisible wall func- 

One night there was to be a party at the Fern. Sem. Of course, 
those boys who, through their sisters or cousins or aunts, were 
to be guests were the envy of every boy in the school. Two boys 
"not expected" at the entertainment conceived the idea that per- 
haps it would be an evidence of gratitude to heave a cat through 
one of the windows. 

They started down the Hill, carrying the cat in their arms. They 
barely avoided Dr. Taylor, who intercepted them and gave chase, but 
"when they reached Abbot, they found the grounds so thoroughly 
patrolled that they had to give up their plan." 9 



18. Male and female at the boundary, Harriet Chape IV s Journal, 
10 May 1814. 

19. Behind the barrier between Abbot and Phillips Academy. 

12 2 SOLID ACQUIREMENTS, I 8 5 2 - I 8 9 2 

Miss McKeen's "methods of government" "were often disagreeable," 
says a teacher colleague. 10 She suspended one girl and expelled another 
for "flirting." Harriet Chapell tells how "Philo" gathered the evidence 
for conviction by commanding every girl in Hall to answer ten ques- 
tions in writing about her own or others' doings with the Phillipians. 11 
Even when legitimate invitations were received from the Hill, (as for a 
football game in the fall of 1878), a "higher power" might talk the girls 
out of going. 12 Gone were the days of coeducational boarding houses. 
Miss McKeen wrote Cecil Bancroft twice in 1885 to insist that one 
of the Phillips boarding-house keepers "not allow boys to occupy any 
room upon our side of her house. It is a constant source of evil to you 
and to me to have that post of observation occupied." 

The effect of having young men, or man, there is pernicious 
every moment, as it keeps the idea of boys in the thoughts of the 
young ladies all the time: indeed, they can neither study, nor 
dress, nor undress, nor walk, nor plav, nor sit still, except under 
observation, usually of several pairs of eyes. 13 

Strong measures. They chiefly serve to suggest that their purpose 
was impossible of achievement. Even the valued theologues could not 
be trusted to escort Abbot girls the shortest way home from an eve- 
ing lecture or a professor's levee. Miss McKeen could make a Com- 
mencement usher out of a seemingly respectable Phillipian like Head- 
master Bancroft's nephew, Alfred E.Stearns (himself Headmaster from 
1903 to 1933), but she could not keep him from "raising cain"— as he 
wrote his sister Mabel— with a lot of girls "in a room back of the 
stage" while the essays w r ere being read, or spending all afternoon of 

Anniversary Day in the Grove with "Miss ," 14 Stearns had already 

taken many a Fern Sem's measure from the back of South Church or 
the Academy Hall at sermons and public recitals ("they looked too 
smooth"— Stearns's supreme compliment). 15 Where Phillipians habitu- 
ally kept 

the town in constant fright 
By prowling round it half the night, 16 

peeking through Smith Hall blinds, or serenading their favorite girls, 17 
not even Philena McKeen could stem the tide. "Did you know," Stearns 
asked his sister, 

that the Fern. Sem. got a terrible blowing up for not coming 
straight home after the Senior Party? Miss Hinkley got an es- 
pecially bad one as Miss McKeen told her that she did not expect 


such things from her. Miss McKeen further told them that 
fellows who would do such things would have no respect for 
them and would make fun of them and talk lightly of them be- 
hind their backs. As far as I have been able to learn, though, the 
thought of such shameful treatment at the hands of the fellows 
does not disturb the girls much. If Miss McK. had known that I 
was one of the base mortals concerned, I fear that I would have 
looked in vain for my invitation to usher. 18 

Abbot students' friendships with the "Lord's Annointed" 19 from the 
Theological Seminary were often serious business, and numerous mar- 
riages resulted. Their relationship to the Phillips Academy students, or 
"Cads," was usually more of a brother-sister affair, with teasing and 
bickering to match. Indeed, there still were several actual sister-brother 
pairs at the two schools each year, even though the number had greatly 
diminished following the opening of Punchard High School. 20 It was 
easy for a nineteen- or twenty-year-old Abbot woman to look down 
upon the "Cad," to answer a Mirror barb at Courant by noting that 
"rudeness is easily pardoned in small boys," or to lecture a Cad cor- 
respondent from the height of the Courant editor's throne: "Yes, mod- 
esty is always commendable in the young. But don't be too humble. 
Remember that in time the little acorn becomes the great oak, and 
perhaps, if you are a good boy, and mind your book, you will grow 
to be a theologue, and can call at the Fern. Sem." 21 They quickly shed 
their hauteur when there was fun to be had, however— a spelling match 
between Phillips and Abbot, or a school-sanctioned expedition "in full 
force" and fancy dress 22 to a Philomathean Society declamation, or a 
Seminary professor's party, or the Andover-Exeter baseball game. It 
was probably in vain that the McKeens had their girls sing the hymn 
"Calm me, my God, and Keep me Calm" at evening prayers before 
one of these co-educational events "to keep them from getting upset 
by the coming gaiety," a procedure that one alumna, a "staid minister's 
wife," never forgot. 23 "All of 'the Fern. Sems." watched one boxing 
exhibition from the gallery, wrote young Stearns. "When a fellow 
would get hit a pretty good crack in the face, there would be a 
sympathetic O-W! rustle the whole length of the gallery, which 
sounded verv funny and in some cases broke up the boxers for a 
time." 24 

Better still were the surreptitious skating on Pomps Pond or the Cads' 
makeshift rink and the coasting parties on School Street with snow 
flying and the boys' cries of "Road!" ringing in the air. 25 "Philo" 
brought these to a halt each winter, of course, but not until mid- 

124 SOLID ACQUIREMENTS, I 85 2- I 892 

February in at least two years, 1879 anc ^ 1881. One wonders how she 
could have missed them. Did she simply pretend not to notice? For 
one way or another, Abbot girls and Hilltop students met and mingled. 
The chronicler of 1887 added the total number of the seventeen Se- 
niors' Hill acquaintances and got 376: 316 Phillips students and 60 
theologues. Of these, only eleven Phillipians and six theologues had 
formal permission to call at Abbot. And this was the count "before 
the Senior party-" the writer exults. 

Except for restrictions on his Fern Sem calls, the nineteenth-century 
Phillips student had a freedom unthinkable a generation later: this was 
a school where a fellow had to learn on his own to be a man, where 
boys arranged their own revenges for unfair bullying, their own ath- 
letic contests, their own free-time amusements. As soon as chapel ended 
on a perfect winter day, there was a race for the bobsleds and a tearing 
down the icy hill past Abbot right to the railroad station. The manliest 
fellows would rather crash into a tree (and did now and then, with 
consequent concussions) than refuse a challenge from a pal. This free- 
dom can only have emphasized to Abbot students the restrictions under 
which they lived. The "American girl" was considered "a very delicate 
plant." 26 If there was a heavy snowstorm, a day scholar's brother might 
tramp through it to Abbot to tell his sister she was not to come home 
for the night, but the girl herself could not venture out, no matter how 
strong she felt. It was the boys who played heroes at the fire that 
destroyed the Mansion House early one morning in 1887, while the 
girls stayed in their beds, listening. 

Still, there must also have been some comfort in Andover Hill's re- 
gard for woman's delicacy. No Abbot girl had to stand fast before a 
Samuel Taylor, who believed in "the doctrine of total depravity as 
applied to boys," 27 or suffer the persecution of bullies with no hope of 
a resident teacher's intervention. 28 Further, many girls probably appre- 
ciated the protective barriers more than they would admit. Even the 
sociable Harriet Chapell, crammed into a chair under the pulpit of the 
Seminary Chapel to hear Professor Park's famous sermon on Peter's 
denial of Christ, thought it "just horrid to sit perched up in the face 
of the Phillipians." The jokes and talks she exchanged with boys met 
by chance (or by secret design) on the street would not be nearly so 
much fun had they been permitted. Harriet cannot have suffered too 
much from Abbot's rules. "Anyway," she wrote at the end of her first 
year, "it's a splendid school." 29 

Off and on, a vague vision of coeducation tempted Abbot's nine- 
teenth-century trustees or teachers; but Dr. Taylor's narrow Phillips 
Academy seems to have been unappealing to the McKeens, and the 


advantages of what Edwards Park approvingly called "proximate edu- 
cation" were too many to forgo lightly. 30 Abbot was far more accessible 
to boys and men than schools like Bradford, whose principal, Annie 
Johnson, did not allow a single visit from a boys' school till 1888, when 
the Phillips glee club gave a concert . In making final arrangements for 
this event, Miss Johnson wrote to Bancroft: 

Of course I should not suggest the theol. sem. men's coming. I do 
not know that they are more safe than other men, as a class. 31 

There certainly was no doubt about the feeling of Phillips students for 
the Fern Sems. They received Abbot's centennial gift of a hand-sewn 
Phillips banner with "a sudden burst, as of thunder out of a clear sky, 
of a round of cheers," lasting a full five minutes. "It is very much to be 
doubted whether this art of speaking be consistent with the constitu- 
tional foundations of the Academy . . . The Trustees should look into 
it," chuckled the Congregationalist? 2 

The coeducation issue surfaced in Andover after Taylor died in 1871. 
The success of several coeducational colleges and public high schools 
was intriguing; 33 so were the arguments sprinkled through the educa- 
tional journals during the last quarter of the century. Henry Barnard 
cited the advantages of coeducation in his American Pedagogy (1876): 
economy of means and forces; convenience to patrons (brothers and 
sisters can attend the same school, and "each is safer from the presence 
of the other"); "wholesome incitements to study," along with the social 
culture that females lend to males; and the opportunity for girls to re- 
spond with womanly qualities to manly behavior. 34 Four of the speak- 
ers at Abbot's Semicentennial celebration felt called upon to address 
the issue: three were for, one against. Much of Miss McKeen's enor- 
mous correspondence is lost, 35 and there is no way of knowing whether 
this public airing of the coeducation question was preceded by serious 
private negotiations between Abbot and Phillips. Philena McKeen was 
delighted with Reverend Cecil F. P. Bancroft, who had taken over as 
Phillips principal in 1873; s ^e spoke repeatedly of her respect for his 
scholarly interests, his kindness, and his concern for Christian charac- 
ter. On December 28, 1878, she wrote him in response to some act or 
letter of his now hidden to us: 

My Dear Mr. Bancroft, 

Your goodness is incomprehensible. I don't know but it would 
be the best thing that could be done, to join Abbott to Phillips 
& put you over all. 36 

That is all she says. If there was a genuine interest in merger, it seems 

126 SOLID ACQUIREMENTS, 1852-1892 

to have died. Miss McKeen did propose some joint science facilities, 
suggesting that "the ideal arrangement" might be for "Phillips, Punch- 
ard, and Abbot, to combine in building one detached laboratory for 
common use, with one lecture-room and separate working-rooms, 
bringing together their treasures, and committing the most perfect 
appointments they could secure to the use of one professor, so fitted 
and endowed as to give the finest possible instruction to all, either col- 
lectively or severally or both." 37 But Punchard's Goldsmith was pre- 
occupied with his own constituency, and Bancroft had work enough 
bringing together Phillips' Classical and English Departments to pre- 
pare boys for newly broadened college entrance requirements. Once 
Bancroft had raised his school's own funds for a new chemistry lab- 
oratory (1882) and for Graves Hall (1892), Phillips laboratories were 
for several years open to Abbot science classes; except for the helpful 
Professor Graves, however, they were at such times empty of men. 
Then, gradually, Abbot developed its own simpler labs in the basement 
of the Academy Hall, and the two schools edged away from academic 

Why did separate education win out? The arguments for it in An- 
dover and throughout the United States were manifold and contradic- 
tory. Some men needed only to repeat the old assertions of women's 
intellectual inferiority. To others, females were worse than inferior: 
they were a naked threat to orderly civilization, compelled by their 
extravagant tastes and their sexual desires or social pretentions to grab 
always for power over men. The Rumanian-Jewish visitor I. J. Ben- 
jamin expressed one version of this harsh view: 

America worships two idols. First is that deaf, dumb, blind 
Mammon before whom the masses humbly bow in this land. 
They kneel before him, setting their honor aside, day and night 
thinking only of amassing wealth, of building palaces. The 
second idol, on the contrary, sees, hears, walks, and talks, and is 
above all full of life; it is the female sex. Both idols live together 
in constant warfare. What one builds, the other tears down; what 
one accumulates, the other scatters; what one makes good, the 
other spoils. 38 

Many girls absorbed men's notions of women's weaknesses. "If a boy 
is not trained to endure and to bear trouble," wrote an Abbot student 
in her journal, "he will grow up like a girl; and a boy that is a girl 
has all a girl's weakness without any of her regal qualities." 39 Or, as a 
popular lecturer put it, "Woman despises in man everything like her- 


self except a tender heart. It is enough that she is effeminate and weak; 
she does not want another like herself." 40 

At the other extreme, there were those who thought women so far 
above men as to be vulnerable to corruption by their influence. Phebe 
McKeen's Thornton Hall characters keep all males at arm's length, and 
speak of girls as intellectually "equal, nay superior to boys." 41 M. 
Carey Thomas, supplementing graduate school tedium with study- 
conversation meetings among her women friends, determined to face 
squarely the role passion and sensuality played in men's lives, other- 
wise "what can we do against them?" She and her friends studied fif- 
teen of her father's medical books, and were horrified at what they 
thought they had learned. "Religion, philanthropy, may as well cease; 
Sense remains ... I am more thankful than ever to be a woman," for 
"the time a man has to spend in struggling against his lower nature she 
has to advance in." 42 Miss Thomas' undergraduate career as one of 
Cornell's first woman students convinced her that only in an all-female 
institution could women achieve the serenity and sense of freedom 
necessary for scholarly activity. 

Some advocates of coeducation drew support from the widely held 
assumption that woman's unique susceptibility to religion made her a 
repository of purity and gave her special responsibility for developing 
virtue in men. "There is no more powerful preacher of righteousness 
for a young man from eighteen to twenty-five," wrote Phebe McKeen, 
"than a lively, winning, warmhearted, right-minded girl, all whose 
beauty and brightness is sacred to truth and purity." 43 Therefore, as 
"Marmee" told her Little Women, "let the boys be boys, the longer 
the better, and let the young men sow their wild oats if they must; but 
mothers, sisters and friends may help to make the crop a small one." 44 
The McKeens thought that love and marriage could elevate both part- 
ners. Theodora's "love came upon [her fiance Vincent Rolf] like a holy 
annointing, to set him apart to a nobler life." 45 Philena wrote with 
concern to one alumna about another, noting that Mary Tarbox, '71, 

pleased me better than when I have seen her before for years. As 
I told her, I have been expecting that the Lord would either let 
her fall deeply in love, or let some great discipline come upon 
her. I think the more agreeable method of development has over- 
taken her, and it is working admirably. 46 

Certainly Harriet Chapell's experience confirmed the sisters' intuitions. 
She wrote of Fred that she had "advanced years in knowing his 
heart." 47 Both sisters seem to have felt, however, that these happy re- 

128 SOLID ACQUIREMENTS, 1852-1892 

suits could only come about if the differences between women and 
men were valued and preserved. Thornton HaWs principal implored 
her girls to treasure their womanly qualities. Philena McKeen proudly 
published in Courant a letter sent her by Dorothea Dix soon after this 
pioneer reformer had spoken at Abbot: "Tell your girls to be women, 
not men; to show what a true woman is, and how great a power she 
has." 48 After a speaker described to all Abbot his theory of women's 
rights, Harriet Chapell recorded his conviction that "woman has her 
best rights in her duty ... of guiding the heart and actions of man. . . . 
Then he said we must all strive to be angels in our homes." 49 Throngs 
of female and male celebrants applauded Reverend A. P. Peabody's 
Abbot Semicentennial speech describing the implications of this view 
for education. Men and women have different aptitudes, not equal 
ones, Harvard's Peabody said, thinking, no doubt, of Cambridge's new 
experiment in "proximate education"— the Harvard Annex (later Rad- 

His is the wider; hers the richer field. His is the strength of reason- 
ing; hers the quicker intuition and clearer insight. His the more 
easy mastery of abstract sciences; hers the far finer-seeing nature, 
the keener sense of beauty in art and in literature, and the larger 
capacity of culture in all that pertains to the beauty, charm, orna- 
ment, and joy of home society. I would not have the same cul- 
ture pursued by both, for I should dread to find always in the 
parlor a duplicate of the counting-room or office. 50 

In return for the influence her special qualities commanded, Peabody 
suggested, woman should gladly submit to man's formal, legal authori- 
ty in the home and the state. Abbot seems to have agreed; certainly 
there is no evidence that Philena or Phebe gave time to suffragist ac- 
tivities. 51 Yet this was not Maria J. B. Browne's retreat of the 1850's. 
Abbot women had to prepare themselves for active, useful lives out- 
side their homes in churches, schools, missionary stations, and temper- 
ance societies. Their power in this "glorious work" 52 and in their 
families was sufficient without the vote. A true woman's cup was al- 
ready full. 

By 1892 a respectful distance had been established between Abbot 
and the two Hill schools. The "medium course" 53 created ambiguities, 
but none that daunted the Principals. Miss McKeen wrote her friend 
Bancroft with a request just before the Breakfast that was to honor her 
at her retirement: 

Dear Mr. Bancroft, 
In your "Remarks" at the Breakfast, at the [Hotel] Vendome, 


would you throw a morsel to appease two classes of people: the 
one, those who wonder at our carelessness in regard to the young 
ladies, that we allow them to take their exercise unattended by a 
teacher, and the second and larger class, who are constantly 
scolding because we do not promise the freest intercourse pos- 
sible between the two schools and invite all of the boys to spend 
every evening in our parlors: Mrs. Prof. Hains and Mrs. Shirrell 
are such groaners. 

So I thought a word from you, quite incidentally dropped, of 
course, might be a word in season: that is if you think as I'm sure 
I do, that P.A. & A.A. have stood in right relations so far as the 
administration of the schools is concerned. 

Warmly yours, 

P. McKeen Philena 54 

In the final decade of the McKeen era, then, Abbot determined on a 
future of its own, laying the groundwork for a resistance to coeduca- 
tion that would last another seventy-five years. 

Religion in the Golden Age 

The nearest a woman could come in 1859 to being a Protestant min- 
ister was to be principal of a committed Protestant school. 55 Minister- 
ing to Abbot was a heady responsibility for Philena McKeen (her 
father's daughter)— one that both awed and stimulated her. As the 
Reverend Silas McKeen had met monthly for discussion with his fellow 
ministers, Miss McKeen consorted with giants in her many meetings 
and conversations with fellow minister-educators like Park, Churchill, 
and Bancroft. Her friendship may have been as important to them as 
was their support for her; it was especially sustaining to Professor 
Park, who grieved to find one friend after another abandoning him as 
the years went by. She and her school made up a concern the three 
men could hold in common, though they were divided on many philo- 
sophical issues. The kindly Churchill could not agree with Park that 
"Immortal souls have been lost in consequence of a wrong definition." 56 
Park was a stubborn holdout for the old theology during the Theo- 
logical Seminary "heresy trial" of 1886 and 87: from his semiretire- 
ment he supported the prosecuting Visitors Committee in its effort to 
remove the five "liberal" professor-editors of the Seminary's Andover 
Review. Meanwhile, Miss McKeen's "precious friend" 57 Churchill and 
Abbot Trustee Egbert Smyth (Abbot Board 1870-89) were two of the 
five defendants. 58 It must have needed tolerance and tact to navigate 

J 3° 

SOLID ACQUIREMENTS, I 8 5 2 - I 8 9 2 

~~ r If I I 

s' J 

If) s^"^ ft Will v/A — -- » 

7 &- 

, -VYI 

20. Professor Churchill and his son come to tea with the sisters, Harriet 
ChapeWs Journal, 24 June 1875. 

between these poles, especially considering Park's "rather feudal views 
of women." 59 Miss McKeen had both. She also had, said one of her 
younger contemporaries, an "intellect of no common sort. It was mas- 
culine in its strength and in its acquirements, and she easily held her 
own in the great dialectic of Andover Hill," 60 a dialectic which sought 
a synthesis of "the Theology of the Intellect and the Theology of the 
Feelings," 61 even while the younger professors strove to construct a 
theology of action, the grounds for a crusade against social inequities 
and urban ills. 

Smiling, Philena McKeen stepped into the middle of the fray. 
Though she was, like Park, an evangelical whose greatest joy was a stu- 
dent brought to Christ, she was too much immersed in the practical 
challenges of day-to-day soul-shepherding within a varied student 
flock to be fussy about doctrinal details, too worried about the effects 
of card-playing and dancing to contemplate the nature of Purgatory. 



If her prayers are fair evidence, her God could do most anything. She 
prayed that the Lord would send new students when Abbot's applica- 
tions fell off. While raising money for the new main building, she 
thought of Him as a kind of heavenly Contractor whom she was assist- 
ing, and prayed Him "to use every dollar and every brick to His own 
glory." 63 To Philena McKeen, subjects such as her beloved art history 
were "the handmaids of religion;" 64 any true scholar or musician or 
artist was a proof of God's goodness, 65 while Christianity itself was 
more concerned with service to others than with the intricacies of 
salvation and afterlife which preoccupied men like Edwards Park. 

If Park, Churchill, and Bancroft were Miss McKeen's chief minis- 
terial colleagues and her teaching colleagues were her "vicars in the 
school," 66 Trustee Warren Draper was her most important lay com- 
municant, deacon, and keeper of the collection plate. Draper had come 
to Phillips Academy an almost penniless farmboy in the early 1840's. 
Working as a janitor at Abbot to pay his expenses, he met Irene 
("Patience") Rowley (Abbot, '43), who was a student supervisor of 
Abbot's short-lived Commons; after his graduation from Amherst, 
they married. His dream had been the ministry, but ill health inter- 
vened. Shortly after entering Andover Theological Seminary, he had 
to give up his plans, involving as they did a grueling combination of 
study and work-for-pay. Instead he took over management of An- 
dover Hill's Bookstore and Press. Though he thought of himself as 
tongue-tied, ineloquent, his new enterprise was the Seminary's propa- 
ganda arm: "the catalogue of his books became a catalogue of Homer's 
ships," 67 as he sent out to the ends of the earth all manner of religious 
publications, including the Andover Review and Bibliotheca Sacra, the 
latter considered by many "the most learned and important theological 
review published in this country." 68 His typesetters could work in 
Hebrew, Greek, and Sanskrit. Much like Abbot's earlier Trustee Peter 
Smith, the staunch and kindly Draper "linked 'commercial honor' and 
'personal virtue,' " becoming part of that responsible aristocracy on 
which— says historian Sklar— the nineteenth century American's sense 
of social stability depended. 69 He was "Mechanic, Merchant, Employer, 
Reader, Editor, Traveller, Patriot," 70 running the Seminary's business— 
and after 1866 his own— till profits filled his pockets, and stayed there. 
He and Irene Draper lived frugally, childless, waiting for worthy 

One of his causes was the preservation of Indian Ridge Forest for 
public use, which he and others finally accomplished by Town Meet- 
ing vote in 1897. Another was the temperance movement, which he 
fought for in Town Meeting in spite of several arson attempts on his 

I32 SOLID ACQUIREMENTS, I 8 5 2 - I 8 9 2 

office by the opposition. "Don't be surprised that mischief has been 
done me," he wrote his father. "I am right, and the right will prevail 
in the end." 71 Here was an enthusiasm he could share with Miss Mc- 
Keen, who was doing her part by holding WCTU chapter meetings in 
the Abbot Grove, called "Temperance Woods" during this period. To 
Draper all good causes were religious causes, and education was above 
all a religious enterprise. Phillips Academy and Punchard High School 
he assisted in many ways, but his deepest interest was Abbot Acade- 
my. Drawn to the school by his old associations, and probably be- 
cause he felt more at home a bit removed from the intellectual gym- 
nastics of the Hilltop, he and the McKeens found common ground in 
their mutual passion for temperance, among many other things. 72 Phi- 
lena gladly welcomed Draper to the Board as Trustee in 1868, and as 
Treasurer in 1876. In doing so she welcomed his wife, too, for as Irene 
Draper was her husband's partner in all his business affairs, she was his 
chief consultant in all Abbot ones. The Drapers built their "homestead" 
just opposite the Abbot gates so that there could be as much coming 
and going as possible with the Abbot family. 73 They invited girls to 
taffy pulls; they joined the Smith Hall Thanksgiving feasts; they wel- 
comed and cared for ill or homesick students; they made their home a 
small dormitory when the school was overfull in 1882. Whenever a 
sum needed for a specific purpose could not be found— as when the first 
Courants required funding— Warren or Irene Draper managed to find 
it somewhere. Before his death in 1901, Warren Draper was to give a 
total of $80,000 to Abbot, and his long-lived wife would add still more. 
Thus the Drapers joined the Parks, the Churchills, the Bancrofts, 
and the McKeens in "that matrix of social institutions and web of per- 
sonal interdependence" which was Victorian America 74 and Victorian 
Andover, a matrix to which religion was still central. If some of the 
"exuberance and openness" of the early 1800's was gone, Andover did 
not miss it. 75 Exuberance in the young could be dangerous, as we have 
already seen. Englishman Alexander Mackay, observing American girls' 
tyrannous demands on their parents, had years ago complained that 
American society was "under the absolute sway of young ladies in 
their teens." 76 Many Americans (especially men) believed that religious 
training could efficiently tame women to their proper role. "Religion 
is exactly what a woman needs, for it gives her that dignity that best 
suits her dependence," wrote Caleb Atwater in The Ladies Reposi- 
tory. 77 Abbot's education for "Christian womanhood" convinced the 
1 890 Courant editors that "to do the daily grind faithfully is the duty 
of each one toward bringing about the coming of the kingdom." 78 
Religious training could fit women for their great tasks as mothers or 



21. Warren Fates Draper, a Yankee benefactor. From Memorial to 
W. F. Draper. 

teachers of souls; it served alternately as u a kind of tranquilizer for the 
many undefined longings which swept even the most pious young girl, 
and about which it was better to pray than to think." 79 

Begin with the Lord's day. Abbot's Sabbath was (said the Catalogue) 
to "be observed as in any other Christian family. Calls will neither be 
made nor received on that day. Unless providentially called away, no 
young lady will be absent from her home here a single Sabbath during 
the term, as we consider excitement and change of scene opposed to 

134 SOLID ACQUIREMENTS, I 8 5 2 - I 8 9 2 

that quiet thoughtfulness which belong to holy time." 80 This was the 
traditional compulsory New England Sabbath in which, complained a 
visitor of 1858, "the rest of Sunday is the rest of the tomb." 81 Harriet 
Chapell heartily agreed at first: 

Such horrid Sundays we have here— fish balls, brown bread, mus- 
tard, and doughnuts for breakfast, then half-hours, and three 
quarters to dress, go to Church, sit perked up in the gallery, home 
to dinner, off immediately to service, then home to stay with 
your room-mate till tea time; after that the visiting quarters, 
half-hours, and solitude with the victimized roommate, then bed 
ends the long day. Not a bit of home Sunday life, not one 
minute of being all together for a good earnest talk. 82 

Hardest of all was "reporting the sermon" to Miss McKeen or a 
teacher every Sunday, sometimes in writing; for Harriet so often slept 
through sermons. 

Eventually, Harriet learned how to survive Sundays. She laid in food 
supplies each Saturday so that she and her friends could find comfort 
in secret parties. She and Mame made so much noise during one half- 
hour that "Miss Palmer comes tripping" to their door: " 'Aren't we 
getting into a frolic?' Mame said 'Yes'm, thank you Miss Palmer' so 
humbly that I was about convulsed with laughter." An hour or so 
later: "We are in perfect agony now, for we have tried to laugh quiet- 
ly to ourselves and it is such hard work." 83 

Even Christmas was just an extra Sabbath day on Zion's Hill until 
the mid-1870's. At least the Abbot girls had no classes as Phillips stu- 
dents did, but they probably went to hear Professor Park's hour-long 
sermon on December 25 of the McKeen's first year, when Phillips stu- 
dent Charles Phelps Taft wrote his father about it. "The chief thing he 
seemed to be driving at was, that there was no end to eternity. I could 
not make anything else out of it. This don't seem at all like Christmas." 84 

In addition to half-hours and daily "devotions," time was set aside 
every Thursday evening for an evening prayer meeting and inspira- 
tional talk; and on Saturday afternoon or evening all students gathered 
to hear a lecture by one of the McKeens, or to receive special prepara- 
tion by Dr. Bancroft or another minister for Communion Service. 
There were special meetings for the fervent; a dozen Seniors habitually 
crowded into the class president's Smith Hall room to pray for one 
another. Many girls complained, but others thrived (or, like Harriet, 
complained at first and thrived later). A student of 1861 wrote of 
walking back to Abbot after an inspiring meeting on the Hill. "In the 
calm light of the Sabbath sunset, my former indecision returned. Duty 


and inclination, the one cold and stern, the other fair and winning, 
alternately presented their claims." 85 Later entries suggest that duty 
won out for this young woman. A student music teacher from the 
McKeens' first year recalled to them in 1879 tnat 

It was while I was at Abbott Academy that I gained the first 
knowledge of my soul's wants . . . What I felt most and have 
never forgotten was the ease and power with which you both 
labored and prayed with the girls under your care for the salva- 
tion of their souls. 

She wrote with passion, for she felt that her own conversion at age 
thirty-three and the religious change it impelled in her profligate hus- 
band and five children had come only just in time to save her family. 86 

Yet Abbot was no longer obsessed by conversion, as Phillips occa- 
sionally was under Taylor and as Mount Holyoke had been for dec- 
ades to the distress of free spirits like Emily Dickinson. Phebe McKeen 
expressed in Theodora her understanding of the ambiguities the con- 
version process presented in a world of expanding scientific knowl- 
edge. 87 Like many boarding schools of the time, Abbot modeled itself 
on the Christian home: both McKeens emphasized the school Family's 
responsibility for orderly Christian nurture. 88 We hear less of the inner 
storms of conversion as the McKeen era progresses. Apparently this 
Family was busy responding to the universal desire of middle class 
Americans to protect their growing daughters "from the howling 
storm outside." 89 

Abbot approached religion intellectually as well as ritually. Gradu- 
ates remembered the theological professors who came down the Hill 
to Abbot, Calvin Stowe to teach Biblical History, Trustee Park to 
secure Abbot girls against Hellfire by reminding them that "an infinite 
wrong against an Infinite Being deserves an infinite punishment." 90 
Meanwhile, Philena McKeen worked to perfect her course in Butler's 
Analogy. This rite of passage was the crown (or was it the fetish?) 91 
of every Senior's career. Said an 1879 report in the Congregationalist, 
young women are not supposed to excel in "metaphysical studies," but 
"in Abbot Academy, Andover, Massachusetts, there is no examination 
in which pupils shine more brilliantly than in that on Butler's Analogy"" 
In time she took over the Biblical and ecclesiastical history courses 
from the men. Draper published her ambitious Church History syllabus 
(it went from "Noah and the Flood, 2348 b.c" and "Abraham, 2247 
b.c" through the mid-nineteenth century), and she filled it with her 
own lesson plans and marginal scrawls. She notes that "Adam was put 
in the garden to 'dress and keep it.' Employment, if not labor, was a 


condition of happiness in paradise." She found it important that an 
Egyptologist had discovered inscriptions confirming the drought dur- 
ing the "seven lean years," and had dated it at 1900 B.C. She mingled a 
fuzzy knowledge of Darwin's theories with ancient Congregationalist 
prejudices in her endorsement of a Michigan University professor, 
who, she writes, had asserted that "the negro race is older than Adam. 
His chief argument is derived from the lack of time between Adam 
and Ham for the black race to deteriorate so much, as we see so little 
change since men began to observe." She drew sounder lessons from 
chemistry, noting that "64 original elements form all the earth," in- 
cluding the humans who people it. Thus " 'Dust thou art and to dust 
shalt thou return' is literally true." 92 The course itself alternated dreary 
sectarian controveries with stirring, detailed stories of Roman emperors 
or Christian martyrs and extraordinarily clear explanations of compet- 
ing philosophies. Supplementary reading consisted of scholarly works 
like Stanley's History of the Jewish Church and articles from Biblio- 
theca Sacra. 

Miss McKeen's syllabus shows no sign of the interest Elizabeth Cady 
Stanton had provoked among woman's rights activists in a new biblical 
scholarship resentful of the almost total dominance of men in biblical 
history and attentive to women's deserved place in Christian tradition. 93 
Perhaps nothing Mrs. Stanton proposed could move Philena McKeen, 
uncomfortable as she seems to have been with the suffragist creed. She 
did keep a clipping reporting a meeting where Lady Henry Somerset 
criticised Protestant Christianity: "So long as the Virgin Mary could 
not be recognized, so long would women not be recognized." 94 

Abbot students were continually reminded of the larger Christian 
community connected with their school. Over and over again, mis- 
sionaries or their Abbot alumna wives came to spend the Sabbath and 
to speak. William Schauffler visited his old classrooms in 1880. A 
Courant reporter was particularly interested in a talk by Rev. Dr. 
Crumwell, black missionary in Liberia, who told the girls that "the 
condition of morals under [American] slavery was far lower than 
[under] paganism." The whole school went to South Church to hear 
evening lectures by Professor Stowe, now living in Hartford, and 
Phillips Brooks, friend of the Seminary's liberals; the older students 
traveled to nearby towns on several occasions to attend convoca- 
tions run by the American Board of Foreign Missions. (Miss Mc- 
Keen once allowed fifty girls to spend the night on the floor of a 
church in Lowell when teachers and students decided to stay on an 
extra day. They used pew cushions for mattresses and slept under 
quilts provided by a local merchant. 95 ) Letters were regularly read in 


Hall from Old Scholars describing their work "among the lowly" in 
a city mission, in Hampton Institute, or in Turkey, 96 and requesting 
Christmas boxes of the linen or clothes that Abbot students often 
sewed and packed for the needy. This was a more practical Christianity 
than that traditionally emphasized on the Hilltop, where a professor 
once scolded a theologue for spending his time helping poor families 

in the Andover mill district: "That is wasting his Seminary course 

in what he calls doing good." 97 It was also a Christianity that brought 
alien places close, involving Abbot students in Bulgarian or Japanese 
political tangles as in a cosmic battle between the Heathen and the 
Saved. Seminary professor John Phelps Taylor told the graduating 
Class of 1 89 1 that each Senior would "take the diploma today as a 
symbol of your union and communion with a shining host, the living 
and the dead, graduates and friends of Abbot Academy, who long for 
a clearer union and a more perfect ministry in the steps of Mary and 
Mary's son." 

With the waning of Abbot's golden age, one senses Philena McKeen 
tiring of the constant effort needed to pit her beliefs against the 
"destructive tendency of this age," as one Courant writer put it. 98 The 
scientific mentality was displacing the theological mentality to which 
she had been raised; Miss McKeen could not hold back the wave alone. 
For a while, her painful rheumatism and the school's day-to-day prob- 
lems eroded her optimism and her faith. When her own and Abbot's 
health improved during the summer of 1888, she wrote to Irene 
Draper, chiding herself: "I am often obliged to turn upon myself as 
distrust rises in regard to God's purposes toward the school and to my- 
self, with 'O fool, and slow of heart to believel" So many girls were 
now apathetic about Abbot's rigorous Christian routine that Miss Mc- 
Keen retreated from the concept of an entire "community in Christ," 
and in 1891 encouraged the really devoted few (thirty or so at first) 
to organize the "Christian Workers," a precursor of the Abbot Re- 
ligious Association. In another area, disillusionment had a happier 
result. The self-reporting system, which had rubbed consciences raw 
for a generation, seemed now to be creating only cynicism and dis- 
trust. It was abandoned by universal consent in 1 890, and its originator 
found herself pleased to see it go. 

Miss McKeen, so long tolerant of the Congregationalists' bias against 
women's formal leadership in the church, gradually lost patience with 
her own denomination. She wrote the Congregationalist in 1879 to ex_ 
press gratitude for the reinstitution of the "day of Prayer" for schools 
and colleges, but asked why women's institutions could not be explicit- 
ly included? "Is it because women are naturally good enough, or be- 

138 SOLID ACQUIREMENTS, 1852-1892 

cause they have no souls?" Her answer is a cynical one: men have 
always supported all-male schools with financial gifts, therefore they 
keep watch over the spiritual health of those institutions as though to 
make certain of the worth of their investment. "Let money find its 
way to girls' schools, and prayer would naturally follow." 99 Though 
the McKeens had come East in 1859 as educational missionaries to a 
threadbare Abbot Acadmy, faith, hope, and love were no longer suf- 
ficient for the now "celebrated school." 100 Speaking for the Trust- 
ees at Philena McKeen's last Commencement, Seminary professor 
John Phelps Taylor might compare her thirty-three year "ministry" at 
Abbot with "the Master's" span of life on earth, but the minister her- 
self had by then lost her original fervor. Toward the end of her life, 
Miss McKeen often attended services at Andover's Episcopal Church. 
We cannot know whether she was looking for more of the Virgin 
Mary or for a new social status, since so many of Andover's business 
leaders were now Episcopalians. 101 In any case, her discouragement, 
along with the Theological Seminary's declining national influence and 
the secular distractions of the late nineteenth century, combined to 
weaken the confident, unifying Congregationalist orientation which 
Abbot's founders had built into its constitution. 102 It was the end of an 
era for this "elder daughter of Christian Academies in New England." 103 

Self Images 

Like young people anywhere, any time, Abbot students had their 
worries and their dreams. Their lives had boundaries ours have not; 
for them also, life's possibilities extended to places few of us ever visit 
in our minds. 

Death was a near boundary. Though most of women's physical 
"weakness" was myth, many young people did sicken and die. One 
tried to prepare for it. Rarely was dying hidden in hospitals; student 
Julia Downs died in her South Hall room on 6 October 1873. Almost 
every issue of Courant reports the death of at least one student or 
young alumna. 

Among those of that happy family in Smith Hall during the few- 
years following 1870 is a name spoken always with love ... a 
name which is now spoken with tears . . . Dear Minnie Lewis 
is a saint in heaven. Our hearts are full; but remembering what 
she was, we can ask no questions. She was the Lord's; is it not 
lawful for Him to do what He will with His own? 


Was it any real comfort for the dying to be "the Lord's"? Martha 
Bailey, '71, had time to seek that solace, at least, and a death well pre- 
pared for was valued. "I long to see my Father in Heaven ... Oh I 
never thought it could be so beautiful to die." The horror expressed in 
Commit of a student drowned reflects these young women's fear of 
sudden death. It is most pronounced in the record of alumna Gertrude 
Spalding Hayden's murder, though here we can also detect a crude 
relish in the drama of it all. 

It was the old story, too often told, of a young orphan heiress 
infatuated by a worthless man, who loved her with a love more 
cruel than the grave— a wilful, stolen marriage— a gay life for a 
little while— then years of enduring all the indignities and wrongs 
that the brutal selfishness of a drinking man can inflict upon a 
timid young wife. 

The husband soon got "in the habit of extorting her property from 
her . . . with his pistol at her head." Gertie, no longer the "playful, 
kittenlike creature" she had been at Abbot, finally "took refuge with 
her sisters" in a Vermont border town, but her husband traveled 200 
miles to force his way into her home (wounding her brother-in-law) 
and shoot her. While she lingered a few hours, her husband sent from 
prison to ask her forgiveness. She gave it, and died. 104 

Life's boundary crossed, afterlife waited. For many, heaven was real. 
Alumna Elizabeth Stuart Phelps (Mrs. Ward) found the public much 
preferred her two "Gates" novels about heaven to her book on the 
evils of this industrializing world, The Silent Partner. The Gates Ajar 
was the most popular of her fifty-two published books. Within these 
pearly gates, men and women are equal and Christ protects woman 
against male incursions whenever her worth is questioned. The Gates 
Beyond describes a Heaven much like the decorous Old Andover of 
Elizabeth's girlhood,— "everything in its place,"— with one improve- 
ment: one's Heaven-husband was one's God-intended soulmate, not 
necessarily one's husband-on-earth. (Mr. Ward had been a great dis- 
appointment to Elizabeth Phelps.) 105 For everyone, revered memory 
could extend individual life. One would expect Phebe McKeen's death 
at age forty-eight to absorb the whole Abbot community, but what is 
striking is the sense of her continued presence into the 1890's as a kind 
of local school saint. In spite of her intense intellectual energy, Phebe 
had had "consumption" for years. Philena had greatly hoped that a 
long European holiday would restore her; this the Trustees granted 
the two sisters in 1875-76, but it did no permanent good. Phebe left 
before Commencement in 1879 to tr 7 to g et we H- "Be my sister's coun- 


selor and comforter while I am gone," she wrote Headmaster Bancroft 
soon after her leavetaking. For her graduating Seniors she sent a spe- 
cial message. 

I am more sorry than I will try to tell you to desert you so, and 
not to be there to give you my parting blessing when you go 
away. But my Heavenly Father lays his hand upon me saying 
"Be still," and that is the end of it. 

She gave them careful instructions for the oral examination. 

I won't let anyone else examine you in Milton, [because] I can- 
not give you the review you need. Instead, prepare to recite 
Lycidas and Covms. Rehearse w 7 ell under Helen Page. And be 
sure to read Paradise Lost some time within the next three years. 
I shall love to hear from each of you, dear girls. With heart- 
felt love, 

Phebe McKeen. 

Her instructions were followed to the letter, and the Senior Literature 
course remained "Miss Phebe's class" throughout the next year, though 
Phebe herself was convalescing with a friend in Baltimore. On the 
night train back to Andover and the 1880 Commencement, she went to 
sleep after speaking over the 121st Psalm (I will lift up mine eyes unto 
the hills . . .) and she never woke up. 

Death was no stranger to Philena AicKeen. Long before, her mother 
had been killed in an accident; her father, her only brother, and three 
of her sisters had died of tuberculosis. But Phebe had been her whole 
family, her closest friend and colleague, for twenty-four years. 
"Neither could be understood without the other," wrote Professor 
Park. Phebe's "habitual gladness" 106 was Philena's daily leaven, her 
courage in illness Philena's inspiration. After Phebe died, Philena set 
a portrait of her sister on an easel in her parlor. Emily Means had 
lovingly painted it from photographs, and had caught Phebe's "kin- 
dling eye." Ever afterward it was next to the portrait that Philena 
knelt for her prayers; it was Phebe's spirit she consulted when a serious 
decision was to be made. Lonely one night in 1890, she wrote Old 
Scholar and teacher Mary Belcher: 

I write tonight because I need to speak to someone who has 
belonged to the same past as me. I have been speaking to Phebe's 
portrait; she looks as if she heard me and felt with me, but I do 
not hear her voice. 107 

It was years before Miss McKeen's memory of her sister ceased to 


interfere with her enjoyment of the charades and games and puns in 
which Phebe had delighted. But ultimately the tragedy left her stronger. 
It brought her "still nearer to the unseen world," deepening her own 
faith, Miss Merrill recalled later. 108 Her gradual acceptance of Phebe's 
death helped to create in her "a heart at leisure from itself to sympa- 
thize with the experience of others," as a friend of her old age put it. 109 
Abbot teachers often conjured up Phebe's image as scholar, goad, 
and Christian comforter. Students who had never actually known her 
came to share in her memory. "Miss McKeen often called us by our 
first names," one remembered, "but one of the new Smith Hall girls 
was 'Phebe', and our principal could not say her name without tears 
coming to her eyes." 110 Mr. Downs set the 121st Psalm to music, and 
it was sung for years at Commencement time, a hymn to Abbot's own 
angelic symbol of the undying soul. 

Women still could not vote or fully control their financial affairs or 
enter many professions. Even Quaker-founded Johns Hopkins Univer- 
sity would not accept a woman graduate student unless she agreed to 
sit behind a screen in the classroom. Yet as Abbot's golden age pro- 
gressed, most students apparently absorbed a wondrous optimism 
about the future of women in particular and America in general. For 
all the disturbing ideas introduced by Darwin, and by the gloomy 
"Social Darwinists" who wrenched Darwin's theories to fit their eco- 
nomic or political conservatism, 111 for all the "struggle for existence" 
that seemed actually to be taking place in cities or on the railway 
workers' picket lines, Courant editors wrote repeatedly about "our 
great Nineteenth Century." 112 Two thousand Abbot students, Old 
Scholars, and friends listened to Dr. Storrs's Semicentennial address, as 
he spoke of society coming ever "nearer to God's plans . . . This pro- 
gress is all the time going forward; and the current is as irresistible, as 
irreversible, as the current of a mighty river, as the passage of stars 
across the meridian." 113 The students behaved as though "we, the 
women of America" 114 would soon have the same political rights men 
had. They held mock elections of their own in every presidential elec- 
tion from 1876 on; they attended their first political meeting in 1880; 
they ran their own caucuses and conventions. The Democratic faction 
of 1888 stuffed the ballot box as if in imitation of the male Democrats 
of those days. (In spite of this perfidy, the Democrats lost seventy-two 
to nine.) Even Miss McKeen was interested enough that year to write 
Irene Draper and ask that "Mr. Edmund's article 'Why I am a Repub- 
lican' " be sent to her. "I wish to be clear on my political creed," she 

142 SOLID ACQUIREMENTS, 1852-1892 

According to men's ideal images, "woman as a sex ought not to do 
the hard work of the world, either social, intellectual, or moral," 115 
and it seemed natural for Maggie of Thorton Hall to complain, "There 
are so few things a girl can do." 116 Actual employment statistics, how- 
ever, showed an ever-increasing percentage of women in the labor 
force. Though most were menial workers, more each year were college 
professors, librarians, lawyers, and doctors— this in spite of protests 
from such as A.M. A. President Dr. Alfred Stille ( 1 87 1 ) that woman is 
"unfitted by nature to become a physician." 117 Abbot's Trustees were 
still all male, but women served widely as public school board mem- 
bers. "The world is in need of women, not animated fashion plates," 
wrote the Courant editors of 1874-75. 118 A delightful Courant story, 
"About Us," describes the decision of two imaginary Abbot graduates 
not to accept "that the whole duty of woman was to teach her Sunday 
School class and take care of her house if she had one, and if not wait 
until one (or the owner of one) came along." They become partners 
in a rollicking grain business, two heroines as different as can be from 
the vapid "Prue" in Thomas B. Aldrich's Prudence Palfrey. 119 (Prue 
idles at home through the entire book while her two suitors roam the 
United States in exhausting adventures.) 

"We were taught to be intellectual women," wrote Anna Dawes '70, 
recalling her Abbot days. 120 Courant editors of 1878 were excited by 
reports from Smith College (founded in 1871) that college women 
could succeed in the advanced studies expected of seniors at Harvard 
or Yale. They acknowledged the argument that many women were 
presently too weak for heavy study (Mary Belcher told her gymna- 
stics classes— and anyone else who would listen— that "not one in five 
[American women 1 are enjoying good health"). 121 They insisted, how- 
ever, that such "destruction" was due not to "natural weakness," but 
to "unceasing stuffing with candy," lack of exercise, "improper dress" 
and other "imprudence." "Girls, why not let us who are now coming 
into womanhood prove to the world that we can get an education 
equal to that of boys . . . and still turn out strong, healthy women?" 122 
The 1883-84 editors decided Abbot women had improved, even 
though "we [still] have too much mental and nervous force to match 
our bodily development . . . One thing we know— that woman of the 
future will be grander and nobler than the woman of to-day, and to 
the intellect of the nineteenth century will join the perfect body 
whose fair mould the Greeks have left us." 123 By the close of the 
McKeen era, Abbot girls, like girls throughout the country, enjoyed 
many more active running sports than had been allowed at mid- 
century. The "perfect bodv" might not be a delusion after all. 



22. Tennis, 1886. 

Abbot students often dreamed of travel, whether or not they had 
the means to undertake it. As "the rich capitalists of Boston look[ed] 
. . . with a kind of piety on Old England" when the Pulsky brothers 
observed them in 1852, 124 so the Abbot community revered old world 
culture. A yen for travel was in the Andover air, asserts Marion 
Park. "All Andover took the $100 or the $200 that it had saved and 
started for Europe every summer." 125 One feels that no Abbot woman 
was considered quite complete until she had made her pilgrimage 
abroad, seen for herself the great cathedrals and paintings she had 
studied, and tested her language skills. Students of the sixties told how 
Henrietta and Susan Hamlin, traveling alone, had talked their way 
into a German fortress at Verona by dazzling the guards with their 
fluency in Deutsch. An alumna wrote Courant of her triumphant 
passage through Europe, shepherding three non- Abbot friends— two of 
them college graduates, all speechless in foreign tongues— with her 
Abbot Academy French. Courant is filled with travel accounts by 
alumnae and teachers. Mrs. Mead's "A Letter from Melrose" needs 
no further identification: Melrose, Scotland, with its famous abbey, 
would never be mistaken by the Courant audience for Melrose, Mas- 
sachusetts, not far from Andover. The McKeens were delighted at 
the prospect of their own pilgrimage. In her letter thanking the Trust- 
ees for their generosity, Philena McKeen said that the thought of the 
coming trip "makes me tingle with joy to the ends of my fingers." 126 

Abbot women went North, South, and West too: A.A.H, '89, wrote 
of her trip to Alaska; Alice French, '68, explored Arkansas and wrote 

144 SOLID ACQU I REMENTS, 1852-1892 

(as "Octave Thanet") a dialect story for Courant; S.F.A., '81, shot the 
Sault Sainte Marie rapids; E.S., '92, sailed twelve hours in an old 
schooner to camp out on a California island; A.A., '92, became the first 
American woman to climb to the Moon Temple above Kobe, Japan. 
They brought their prejudices along. In a letter from Washington, 
D.C., M.P.K., '84, described the "amusing" behavior of black families 
in her mission class and in their own churches: "Some of the negroes 
are educated and well-ofT; but our idea of the 'darkey' is a black, jolly 
person, with thick lips, broad nose, white teeth, and a not very grace- 
ful figure, and it is this class who are the most interesting." 127 This 
was handy confirmation of Miss AdcKeen's notes on the evolution of 
the black race. Travel could narrow minds too. 

In spite of adventurous dreams and deeds, the surest future for every 
Abbot girl was still a home and family of her own. She had heard Miss 
McKeen urging her to "rejoice in her womanhood"; 128 her school was 
praised as one of the "safe-guards and beautifiers and purifiers" of the 
American home. 129 The "blessed work" 130 of wife and mother con- 
stantly beckoned, colliding with newer, broader aspirations. It is inter- 
esting that by 191 3 only half of all Abbot alumnae had married. The 
probable reasons for this are complex, and bear discussion in a later 
chapter; but at the least, one can surmise that the school's lively spin- 
ster teachers helped to make the single life an acceptable alternative. 
Perhaps it is a tribute to the McKeens and their colleagues that Abbot 
could contain as many dreams as it did, that the school did not insist 
on a single pattern for adult life. The medals struck during Abbot's 
golden age were of infinite variety. 

Alumnae data show that bold self-images often shaped adult realities. 
The very security students found within the Abbot Family apparently 
gave many Abbot graduates the strength to live futures unforeseen 
by Philena McKeen. This was a confirmation of Victorian educators' 
hopes: the confusions of modern life were so great that it was better, 
they reasoned, to isolate young people from temptation than to allow 
them to test and temper themselves within the adult world of work 
or marriage. Like all boarding seminaries and colleges for young wom- 
en, Abbot early provided the carefully controlled environment that 
would become the ideal for boys' preparatory schools and coeduca- 
tional public high schools after about 1885. 131 Victorian America "as- 
sociated puberty with psychological turbulence and moral incapacity," 
and adults must step in. 132 The McKeens and their teachers prescribed 
dress, food, exercise, sleeping hours, intellectual labor, and religious 
practice for an entire community of girls and young women; if all 


did not go exactly as planned, it was not for lack of adult effort. As 
Joseph Kett points out, teenaged girls from middle- and upper-income 
families were the earliest adolescents, the group seen as most vulnerable 
to the pressures of modern life, most in need of protection against 
hasty marriage and the precocious assumption of adult status in an 
uncertain world, as well as the one whose economic services were 
least needed. Decades had passed since the Marland girls operated the 
power looms in their father's Andover mill, mingling daily with farm- 
ers' daughters. After the Civil War, only immigrants and poor people 
sent their girls into factory work; the better sort arranged for their 
daughters a moratorium between childhood and adulthood whose 
purest expression was the boarding school. 133 One result of this com- 
bination of genuine parental concern and push for status was that 
many American girls were better educated than their brothers. Eu- 
ropean visitors remarked on the fact, and a society convinced that 
women had a special talent for religious and cultural pursuits accepted 
and welcomed it. 134 Not until the 1890's would large numbers of par- 
ents demand an equally thorough secondary education for their sons. 
By that time, rapid industrialization had greatly expanded professional 
and managerial opportunities for men, while the old apprenticeship 
routes to vocational competence were being closed off. 135 

Developments in young men's education only confirmed the Abbot 
adults' confidence in the path their school had chosen before the Civil 
War. Miss Hasseltine had sketched it, and Miss McKeen traveled it 
with her colleagues for over three decades. The McKeens created 
their own cheering section along the route, as their students grad- 
uated and sent encouragement back to the Family. 136 Emily Means, 
'69, remembered Miss Phebe moving always "in advance of her girls," 
with "a brilliant smile of approval" for those who "climbed the 
heights" with her, "a scathing scorn if they fell behind." Meanwhile 
Philena was at the rear "with a steady force pushing [them] on, like 
the irresistible movement of a glacier. Between two such stimuli, how 
could one help moving forward?" 137 It was well that Abbot had gath- 
ered its strength, for mountains lay ahead. 


forth and Back, 1885-1912 

The mid-i88o's found Abbot entered upon a period of enthusiastic 
physical expansion and reluctant educational redefinition, a phase 
which lasted through the final McKeen years, tried two more prin- 
cipals, and ushered in Bertha Bailey, the first Abbot principal to have 
prepared for her career in college. Buildings that had seemed luxurious 
at midcentury looked inadequate by 1880, especially to Miss McKeen, 
who longed to immortalize her pedagogical ideas in brick and stone. 
Abbot had also to shift its academic ground just enough to find a 
secure niche in an educational scene suddenly dominated by the new 
women's colleges, without losing strengths built into the school during 
earlier years. For only the strong could negotiate a way through the 
mounting confusion over women's roles around the turn of the cen- 
tury. Images of women's progress toward equality were fast becoming 
realities, and the luxury of anticipation had to give way to disciplined, 
practical efforts to deal with these realities. In spite of perplexity, 
Abbot would do its best. 


In his Report for 1876 the U.S. Commissioner of Education listed Ab- 
bot Academy among the "institutions for the superior instruction of 
females," along with Vassar, Bradford, Mt. Holyoke Seminary, and 
several mid-western colleges. The Commissioner acknowledged that 
his office was baffled: many "colleges" were providing the barest 
high school training, while the best "seminaries" matched the true 
colleges in their curricular offerings and the age range and quality 
of their students. 1 Though Abbot could not touch Vassar's $400,000 
founding endowment or Mt. Holyoke's library collection, its courses 
almost exactly duplicated those offered by her sister institutions. 

Ten years later, although all chartered "seminaries" like Abbot had 
disappeared from the Commissioner's list, the confusion remained. The 
U.S. Office could still give no clear answer to the vexing question, 
"When is a 'college' or seminary truly a college?" 2 By 1889 the Com- 
missioner was lamenting the condition of the typical state-chartered 
degree-granting female "college" running unendowed "like an engine 
without a flywheel," owned or leased by a president who "makes out 
of it what he can." 3 The Commissioner was comfortable with only 
about fifteen institutions of the 179 on the "college" list, among them 
Wellesley, Smith, Mt. Holyoke, Vassar, the new co-ordinate colleges, 
Barnard and Radcliffe, and innovative, self-conscious Bryn Mawr. 

Abbot had not changed; the educational world had changed. The 
Abbot of the 1880's was in fact a thriving enterprise, rich for its time 
in teaching equipment and well-equipped teachers. But this Abbot was 
also uneasy, jealous of the new "instant institutions" endowed by mil- 
lionaires, chafing at the limitations imposed by its frugal Trustees. As 
early as 1877 the privations of Abbot life had begun to tell on both 
McKeens. News that Bradford's Annie Johnson had been hired at 
$3000 stimulated a proud plea from Philena to Trustee Chairman George 
Ripley: "Are not we two worth as much to Abbot Academy?" she 
asked. (Apparently the answer was "not quite," for the Trustees raised 
the McKeens' combined salary from $1600 to just $2ooo.) 4 The same 
year, indignant Courant editors advertised Abbot's departmental and 

152 FORTH AND BACK , 1885-IQI2 

housing needs, and asked why girls' schools should so often want 
for money. Student writers pointed out that "the current expense of 
a student for one year at Harvard would pay the current expenses of 
a four year's course at Welleslev; yet there are many girls who cannot 
afford this whose brothers are at Harvard." 5 Shortly after the Semi- 
centennial orators had called for the expansion of Abbot, this "engine 
of good," 6 Miss McKeen wrote the Trustees the first of many anxious 
letters. Improved transportation and the proliferation of new institu- 
tions had brought Abbot "into direct and sharp competition with other 
prominent schools and colleges for girls," she told the Board. 7 The 
dormitories at Wheaton, Bradford, and Wellesley offered students 
both bedrooms and parlors at little more cost than the Abbot student 
paid to share an attic room in South Hall. Abbot salaries could not 
obtain "a teacher who seems absolutely essential to the prosperity of 
the school," one who might want to come but could not make the 
$200 sacrifice below her present salary; $150,000 would provide a new 
dormitory, a small endowment to tide the school over business panics, 
and the teaching space needed to house the abundant equipment then 
packed in boxes. 8 Abbot's richly endowed "sister schools," Vassar and 
Wellesley, most excited Miss McKeen's envy. But at a minimum, 
"Shall not Abbot keep up with Bradford in its opportunities for study, 
though it cannot in its buildings?" 9 

No response— at least none that we know of. For the next few years 
the problem simmered in faculty sitting rooms and in gatherings of 
the growing Alumnae Association. All Abbot watched the physical 
changes being made on top of Andover Hill, where Dr. Bancroft's 
Centennial drive had pulled Phillips Academy from penury to a con- 
dition that allowed significant dormitory construction, even (eventual- 
ly) the construction of bathrooms. Miss McKeen gradually became 
convinced that physical improvements were the key to Abbot's future: 
no legal application for college status such as Mt. Holyoke Seminary 
was soon to make seemed called for when most Abbot students and 
teachers— even those few teachers who were college graduates— were 
so content with the original format, and she herself was so suspicious 
of credentialism. 

In private she worried about inferior lighting systems and double 
beds. College administrators were anxious about the effects of "smash- 
ing"; Victorian New England had finally confessed itself stung bv 
criticisms like those of French visitor Moreau de Saint-Mery. 

I am about to say something almost incredible. [America's 
young women are not] strangers to the taste for the pleasures 


of a misguided imagination in a person of the same sex . . . 
In the space of eight or ten years a girl may share her bed with 
fifty or sixty different creatures, of whom no more may be 
known than their names, who may be . . . infected with com- 
municable diseases and with habits fatal to a young person. 10 

Harriet Chapell would have laughed at such fulminations; another 
alumna of the seventies could recall her bedfellow with amusement 
("I love her dearly, but I always said and I always will say that she 
took three quarters of the bed"). 11 Yet Miss McKeen could not afford 
to ignore the prevailing anxiety. The technology was at hand to alter 
the custom that had kept so many bedfellows warm, happy, and 
cramped for so long. None of the new colleges had double beds or 
kerosene lamps; neither would Abbot Academy. 

In public Miss McKeen pressed the Trustees to raise the needed 
funds. By 1884 she was insistent: "Better accommodation'" is what we 
need, she wrote the Trustees in January 1884. "You do not know the 
deep feeling of Old Scholars in regard to this matter." Alumnae As- 
sociation members had recently pledged $2000 to begin a building 
drive. "I should be unwilling to attend another meeting of that As- 
sociation, unless I could report the sympathy and efficient cooperation 
of the Trustees." She reminded them that she would not be Principal 
much longer, and that her "long experience would be of practical 
worth" in helping plan new buildings. 12 

Perhaps it was her postscript that set them thinking: "P.S. It cannot 
have escaped your notice that our numbers have fallen off during the 
last two years; there is everv reason to fear that this decrease will go 
on, unless we can compete with neighboring schools in the accom- 
modations we offer for the same, or more, money." The decline had 
been small, but the threat was palpable. In June she again asked for 
action, and this time the men of the Board took the bait. Upon the 
Drapers' dining room table one evening that fall, a grand plan emerged, 
the sum of faculty suggestions, McKeen ambitions, and architects' con- 
sultations with the Trustees' planning and building committees includ- 
ing Professor Churchill, George Ripley, Mortimer Mason, and Warren 
Draper. The architects' sketches envisioned an entirely new campus of 
four large buildings, including an enormous "Administration Building" 
with rooms for English course students, two language halls, and a new 
Academy building, each built in "eleventh century Romanesque," a 
style that all agreed would greatly surpass the outmoded simplicities 
of Smith Hall and the original Academy building. 

The company was delighted with the covered walkwavs and the 







plans for minimizing stair climbing, features designed to maintain the 
delicate health of young women. 13 They made plans to publicize the 
school's absolute commitment to central heating and to single beds, 
whether in single rooms or two-room suites. Full of optimism and of 
what was later to seem to Miss McKeen an "almost pathetic" cour- 
age, 14 they set about organizing themselves to raise $150,000 from a 
constituency that had never given more than $7,000 for any one proj- 
ect, from alumnae who had repeatedly pleaded "reduced circum- 
stances" or "father is bankrupt" during the Semicentennial drive five 
years earlier. 15 

The Trustees expressed their "earnest desire" that Philena McKeen 
should actively aid in the fund-raising, and promised to cover her ex- 
penses. 16 Miss McKeen had not expected this; always before, the men 
had raised the building funds. Fearful of horses, terrified of traveling 
by night, 17 she was at first "overwhelmed" by the idea of herself con- 
ducting "a campaign of begging," but she agreed in spite of her fears 
to take the major responsibility— "I shall do it if it kills me," she said— 
so long as the Board did not insist that she approach strangers who 
knew nothing of Abbot. 18 Here was a stipulation that Miss McKeen 
could make with some confidence, for Abbot Academy had by now a 
small but loyal Alumnae Association, begun by Phebe McKeen and 
Susanna Jackson in 1871 and strengthened through the efforts of many 
—most notably the Corresponding Secretaries, trustee daughters Char- 
lotte Swift and Agnes Park, both Class of 1858. A $5.00 life member- 
ship fee soon created funds sufficient to invest, the interest to be used 
for needed gifts to the school— maps, books, microscopes for the 
botany class, and more books. Most important, the 350 Association 
members could be counted on to help with the new drive, as could 
others of the more than 1000 alumnae who were not yet members 
but had shown their interest by returning for the Old Scholars Day 
at the Semicentennial Celebration or bv coming back at Commence- 
ment time. 19 With much help from the records that had been gathered 
for the Semicentennial Celebration, Miss McKeen and a special secre- 
tary mapped her routes and planned the central meetings of Abbot 
alumnae and friends. All contributions were to be made conditional 
upon $100,000 being subscribed on or before July 1st, 1886. She went 
first to the Trustees, to the Alumnae Association and to Abbot's Hill 
and Town neighbors; armed with their pledges, totaling about $34,000, 
she and a companion set forth in January 1886 on her tour of prospec- 
tive donors in five northeastern states. 

It was a bold departure for an elderly lady. The two braved New 
York snowstorms and New England floods, hoping for, and almost 

156 FORTH AND BACK, I 8 8 5 — I 9 I 2 

receiving, a welcome at each city or town in an alumna or parent 
home. They set forth every day on calls to nearby alumnae, and wrote 
pledge cards by night for people of! her route. There were "days and 
days," Miss McKeen wrote later. 20 At one house in Pottsville, Penn- 
sylvania, she was given $600, in all of Springfield, Massachusetts, only 
$70, in New York City, $5010. 

She hated it; she loved it. "I dreaded the last call I made as much as 
I had dreaded the first." Worst of all was her "unpleasant duty" to 
"seek gentlemen in their place of business." But her reward was the 
welcome her Dear Old Girls gave her in their own homes, which she 
found "centres of refinement and intelligence and usefulness." 21 Grad- 
ually as she visited ever more alumnae, "the new buildings, which had 
so long filled my vision, sank to less importance, and the school rose, a 
beautiful temple, of which our (daughters) were as cornerstones, 
polished after the similitude of a palace." 22 Wrenching metaphor this, 
but typically earnest sentiment. 

The Trustees helped her mount receptions in Lowell, Boston, and 
New York. At the Boston gathering, Rev. Phillips Brooks, distant 
cousin of Sarah Abbot and "beloved friend" of her namesake school, 
spoke movingly of Abbot's capacity for combining the old and the 
new; Edwin Reed, Abbot husband, asserted that women's education 
should be first to receive support, not last, for "Great men always 
have great mothers." Reverend Cyrus Hamlin, now over eighty years 
old and returned from Turkey, sent a message saying "Abbot has no 
superior ... It cannot be spared." Hamlin also came to Lowell to 
rejoice that his wife Henrietta and six of his daughters had been ed- 
ucated at Abbot. In April, Philena McKeen came home with about 
$55,000 in total pledges, exhausted but hopeful. Even the Smith Hall 
cook and laundry girls handed back to her part of their wages that 
spring. She felt that the remainder of the $100,000 might yet come in. 
It did not. July approached, with the goal only half attained. The 
Trustees wrote all those who had promised to give, asking that they 
allow the school more time to reach its minimum goal. Most respon- 
dents agreed, but some withdrew their pledges. It was a discouraging 
time. The Trustees went ahead with more modest building plans: at 
the least, they could break ground for the large central building. Re- 
gretfully, they suppressed their Victorian-Romanesque vision, and re- 
signed themselves to keeping Academy Hall, which could be moved 
onto a new one-story foundation and thus provide barelv adequate 
teaching space. In spite of this initiative, donations slowed to a trickle. 
Miss McKeen took it hardest. Well over sixty now, rheumatic, 


and simply tired, she brooded. The fund drive seemed "hopelessly 
rutted." 23 Why could Abbot's friends not give more? While she was 
begging for a dollar, ten dollars, the Bryn Mawr day school in Balti- 
muxc nad been launched by a single heir of the B. & O. Railroad 
fortune with gifts which would amount to over half a million dollars 
by 1890. Abbot Academy had grown up in circles where an "ever- 
lasting scorn of worldliness" 24 made great wealth suspect. Was her 
school now to run on soul alone? Finally, regretfully, in June of 1888, 
she wrote the Trustees a letter of resignation, promising to continue 
helping Abbot wherever she could do so "without seeming officious- 
ness." This was too much for Abbot's old friend Warren Draper. On 
July 3 he declared to the Trustees that he would add $22,000 to his 
pledge of $3000, payable upon the receipts of $60,000 cash from all 
other old pledges and new donations. 

Everyone took heart. The Trustees had already asked Miss McKeen 
to withdraw her resignation. She now did so. The Board then voted 
to name the new building Draper Hall in honor of its most generous 
and most determined donor. They asked Miss McKeen to go fund- 
raising once more to meet Draper's condition, and she set out with 
new energy, her rheumatism much diminished, again to delight in the 
hospitality and piety of the many alumnae "who are honoring the 
Master and the school which He founded in Andover." 25 Though 
cash receipts were still only $54,500 by the following June, construc- 
tion had gone ahead, with Draper himself supervising the works. The 
Academy building was jacked onto great rollers and drawn by oxen 
to its present site, an operation accomplished so smoothly that a vase 
accidentally left on its bracket was found whole and in place after the 
move. Smith Hall had already been moved back toward the Grove; 
now it was South Hall's turn. Patrick the custodian waved from his 
South Hall window to Miss McKeen in her Smith Hall apartment 
as the old house glided majestically by toward the Abbot Street site. 
Finally the circular driveway could be staked out, and the shape of the 
modern Abbot quadrangle discerned. With joy, Miss McKeen dug 
out the first spadeful of earth for the Draper Hall excavation. 

Ceremony over, chaos reigned for months: pits yawned, piles of 
debris rose everywhere. To one visiting alumna, "it looked as if a very 
orderly earthquake had visited the old place." 26 A new student thought 
she had reached "the land of modern mound-builders." 27 Miss McKeen 
wrote that "Our friends dreaded to enter the grounds; and horses 
were frightened by new complications; Miss Merrill and her French 
family at Davis Hall and we at Smith Hall were absolutely separated 

158 FORTH AND BACK, 1885-1912 

after nightfall. Telegrams were coming from fathers to daughters: 
'Unless nuisances are immediately abated come home.' ,,2S The nuisances 
remained, but so did the daughters. When Draper Hall was finished 
in 1890, one great problem was still to be solved: the furnishing of 
over one hundred student rooms, teacher apartments, music rooms, and 
dining and receiving rooms. Many nights, Philena McKeen lay sleep- 
less, "room after room pass[ingl in melancholy procession before 
me." 29 

At last she committed the problem to the Lord, "—and He solved 
it." 30 One faithful Abbot friend after another came forth with furnish- 
ings at $100 a student room— and well over $1000 for the profuselv 
decorated Mason Drawing Room, named for its Trustee benefactor. 
Trustee wives Mrs. George Smith and Mrs. John Phelps Taylor (An- 
toinette Hall Taylor) provided for the guest rooms, one with "dainty 
white furniture," the other in deep mahogany, "with portieres and lace 
draperies, with rich toilet fancies." 31 The November Club furnished 
the main library, and many new books were given to fill empty shelves 
in the Jackson Memorial Reading Room, the most exciting donation 
being a copy of Uncle Tom's Cabin sent by Mrs. Stowe and auto- 
graphed especially for Miss McKeen. Professor and Mrs. Downs 
donated two pianos for the music rooms. Harriet Chapell Newcomb 
discovered that the guest entrance was bare and immediately joined 
with her former art teacher, Emily Means, to design and oversee the 
installation of wall friezes and coverings and to buy the furnishings 
needed. The Phillips Academy teachers and students asked if they 
might donate an English hall-clock to complete the furniture for the 
entrance; a lecture on the Oberammergau Passion Play was given by 
an old friend to raise funds for the carpeting. Miss McKeen's rooms 
on the first floor front were done up with papering and wood carving 
"in a quiet phase of the Byzantine Romanesque." 32 

Abbot moved into Draper Hall in September 1 890, but Miss McKeen 
dreamed on, this time of a great housewarming. She mailed 1,000 in- 
vitations, then asked Mr. Draper, would he kindly pay for the party? 
Mr. Draper demurred. The building had cost $90,000, $11,000 more 
than the sum raised. Was a celebration in order when Abbot was still 
in debt for construction? Later the same day he changed his mind 
(probably pushed by his wife to consider the advantage of thanking 
donors and publicizing Abbot) and promised all the ice cream, fruit 
juices, and fancy cakes that the celebrants could eat. Thus on January 
21 a throng from Hill and Town and out-of-town gathered in grati- 
tude and jubilation. Trustee George Davis, the donor of the first and 


J 59 

24. The "McKeen Rooms" with Phebe's portrait, decorated "in a quiet 
phase of the Byzantine Romanesque" The Mason Drawing Room can be 
seen through the door. 

largest contribution before Mr. Draper's, gazed at the scene through 
tears of joy, grieving not at all for the imminent retirement of his 
earlier gift, Davis Hall, whose twenty-five student French family 
would live one-to-a-room in Smith Hall while the English course stu- 
dents and the "Teutonic population" took over sumptuous Draper 
Hall. For while Abbot Academy was not the half-million dollar "Re- 
naissance Palace" the B. & O. fortune had built for the new Bryn 
Mawr School in Baltimore, 33 it now resembled nothing so much as a 
vast Victorian honeycomb, with only the Georgian Academy building 
(now renamed Abbot Hall) to compromise its effusive elegance. 

More buildings would be added, but none would surpass in their 
bulk or in the drama of their construction this symbol of Abbot's 
claim on a new and wealthier constituency— Draper Hall. Gone were 
the days of "crushing economy" which had for so long been "one of 
the conditions of life on Andover Hill." 34 Miss McKeen and the 
Trustees had convinced each other that many of those upper-class 
girls who had been choosing Smith and Vassar would really prefer 
Abbot once its accommodations were improved. An electric lighting 
system, a heating plant that had cost $10,000 to install, then more to 


FORTH AND BACK, I 8 8 5 — I 9 I 2 

2$. The Abbot campus, 1890-1897. Davis Hall or "French Hall" is at 
the right. 

improve, better food at Miss McKeen's insistence (for she saw the 
school "suffering from the bad reputation of its table") 35 — all were to 
add further expense. The Board voted in 1890 to cover new costs by 
raising tuition from $300 to $400 for the following year ($75.00 for 
day scholars), a sum that was higher than Bradford's and Wellesley's 
charges and double the $200 fee for Mt. Holyoke College and Semi- 
nary. It was a daring move, and it set parents' boarding-tuition bill at 
a level three times that of the year of the McKeen's arrival in 1859. 

Now where were the applicants? Even before the raise, it had taken 
all of Miss McKeen's leverage with her Lord to produce a near-full 
school for the construction year of 1888-89. ^ n midsummer she had 
written Mrs. Draper that 

to fill the three halls attics and all, we need twenty -seven more 
pupils than have applied. / think it would not be wise to speak 
of this, as there is nothing worse for a school than to have the 
impression get abroad that it is running down. But I am constant- 
ly praying, earnestly, that the Father above will turn the hearts 
of parents toward us, and give us wisdom and grace to take 
care of their daughters: ... I try to do it in faith and with 
a single eye of His glory, although it is difficult to keep our own 
honor, and that of the school out of mind in praying. Do help 
me pray for pupils and such as may bring and receive a blessing. 

The Father undoubtedly did His best, but enrollments had slipped 



by 1890 to sixty-nine pupils. Great must have been the relief when 
they began rising again the following year, and held their own at 
126-144 after Miss McKeen's retirement in 1892 through the serious 
depression of 1893-97. After all, the rich still had money, some more 
than ever after the dog days ended. Day-scholar enrollment increased 
dramatically from 17 percent in 1891 to 44 percent in 1897; the Merri- 
mack Valley was evidently impressed with Abbot's new quarters, and 
perhaps more important, heartened by the welcome given its daugh- 
ters under a new regime. 

Philena McKeen had been "mother, sister, friend" 36 to nearly two 
thousand young women during her thirty-three years at Abbot 
Academy. The Alumnae Association and Trustees gave her a magnifi- 
cent send-off at a reception and noon-hour "Breakfast" in Boston's 
Hotel Vendome. Abbot's closest friends were there— 350 in all— or 
sent messages. Former Trustee Egbert Smyth's greeting from the 
Theological Seminary was perhaps the most poignant, considering his 
painful experience at the hands of Board President Park (sitting right 
there on the platform in spite of his age and frailty) and other theo- 
logical conservatives at the time of the heresy trial. "All the brethren 
salute thee," he said to Miss McKeen with emphasis. Sisters and daugh- 
ters from everywhere in Abbot's enormous Family did the same. 
Philena McKeen retired to old South Hall— redecorated by the Trust- 
ees for her use as a private home and renamed "Sunset Cottage" at 
her request in honor of her declining years. 

\6l FORTH AND BACK, 1885-IQI2 

Briefly, a Heroine 

Laura S. Watson, Abbot's next Principal, lasted only six years. She 
was a woman of fine looks, "commanding intelligence" and "especial 
delight in art." 37 One feels she should have stayed for decades. Nobody 
alive knows exactly why she left; but one can suspect she earned her 
rest, for she "took the helm under circumstances demanding peculiar 
tact and self-restraint" 38 and she accomplished what Miss McKeen 
and many of her teachers had been resisting: without compromising 
Abbot's traditional strengths, she created a solid college preparatory 
course for those young women who saw beyond Abbot to further 

There were Abbot students who had seen beyond Abbot for years. 
Two went together to Oberlin in 1856. Soon afterward the tiny 
library in the back of the Hall ended the Abbot career of another 
girl, who read every book there; when she came to the English tran- 
slation of Plato's Fhaedo (surely bowdlerized for young ladies' use), 
she decided she must leave for college, where she could learn Greek. 
Against much opposition, some state colleges and universities were 
admitting women. The Vassar "family" had 353 students the spring 
after its opening in 1865, and while Vassar's admissions standards did 
not yet match those of the best men's colleges, Smith's founders prom- 
ised to correct this. Rejoicing in these new departures, the 1875 
Courant editors wrote: 

We want to congratulate our sisters that their opportunities for 
making themselves really highly educated women are so greatly 
improved . . . Shall we be willing to give up eight or ten years 
of our life to hard study? Statistics from the higher class of 
boarding-schools show that not more than one half, often not 
one third, of those who enter remain until they graduate . . . 
Ought we, now that schools of a superior order are open to us, 
to be content with this surface cultivation? Shall we be willing 
to be mental pigmies all our lives? 39 

They urged their peers to use Abbot's excellent education to prepare 
for college. Yet only twenty-six alumnae— .009 percent of the total- 
had graduated from four-year colleges before Miss Watson came. 40 
It was much more common for both graduates and nongraduates to 
take a year or two of further study in music, art, teaching, or nursing. 
Abbot prepared students directly for such specific training; four grad- 
uates went straight from Abbot to medical school and became physi- 
cians. With strong support from the Trustees, Miss Watson changed 



26. Laura S. Watson, Principal, 1892-1898. Artist unknown. Portrait 
currently hanging in Abbot Chapel. 

all this, resurfacing the roadbed the McKeen sisters had laid without 
altering the route which Abbot had traveled since 1853. 

The Abbot Trustees brought Laura Watson to Andover at a salary 
of $1200 from her position as preceptress at the school where she 
had begun her education, St. Johnsbury Academy in Vermont. 41 She 
herself had no undergraduate college degree. She had gone from Mt. 
Holyoke Seminary to teach at Lawrence Academy in Groton, Mas- 
sachusetts, then became principal of Albert Lea College for women in 
Minnesota. While she was teaching in the Midwest, she studied for 
and received the Ph.B. and M.A. degrees from Wesleyan University 
in Bloomington, Illinois. Contemporaries describe her as "a lady of 
power." 42 She would need it. She began her Abbot work at a time 
of general soul-searching on the part of secondary-school educators. 
The college admissions standards for graduating high-school students 

1 64 FORTH AND BACK, I 8 8 5 - I 9 I 2 

had become badly confused, some colleges requiring broad scientific 
and liberal arts preparation, others still satisfied by the old classics-and- 
minimal-mathematics combination in which Phillips Academy had 
specialized before 1871. Proliferating public high schools compounded 
the problem while trying to solve it. The American public had begun 
to demand clarity. The older female seminaries, which had always 
offered both secondary and college level subjects, must define them- 
selves or go under. 

Essentially, the opening of the century's final decade presented 
Abbot's Trustees and Principal with four choices: 

1. To follow Miss Watson's own alma mater, Mt. Holyoke, and 
become a four-year college, keeping a small preparatory de- 

2. To become a "fitting school" and concentrate all resources 
on college preparation. 

3. To cling to the status quo and hope, counting on the strengths 
and challenges of the traditional course— so much of which 
overlapped with the usual college work— to attract good students. 

4. To create a college preparatory course within the traditional 
school so that all who wished to elect college preparation 
could do so. 

The first choice was tempting, but it would be terribly difficult to 
undertake. Long since, Abbot had tried and failed to endow a "Phebe 
McKeen Professorship of Literature and Belle Lettres." Wellesley was 
paying its professors (all of them women) liberally and providing 
superior research facilities; Vassar offered full professors $2500 plus 
board, and built for renowned astronomer Maria Mitchell an observa- 
tory that far surpassed Abbot's once-unique telescopic equipment. 
Even Mt. Holyoke Seminary had boasted endowed teaching chairs 
and ample scholarships long before its formal conversion to college 
status. 43 Abbot's latest fund-raising experience did not suggest ready 
success for this course of action. 

The second choice— a college preparatory school— would be most 
economical, and prestigious to boot. Children of the newly rich were 
flocking to new Northeastern preparatory schools for the polish 
that Smith and Bryn Mawr required of their applicants. 44 A college 
degree was valuable coin for young women aspiring to be teachers or 
other professionals (30 percent of female high school teachers now had 
Bachelor's degrees). Was it not time to bow to the inevitable? But the 
inevitable alone was seldom persuasive at proud Abbot Academy. To 


settle for the simple college preparatory alternative would be to fly in 
the face of Abbot tradition, early articulated by alumna Anna Dawes, 
'70, who saw American society "hurrying on both blindly and too 
fast" to make college and "the higher branches compulsory" for girls. 
"I protest," said Miss Dawes. "Excellent" young women have been 
educated in the seminaries of New England, schools "now fast pushed 
out of sight by the rage for a collegiate education, or passed over in 
the search for fashionable polish." 45 Abbot as a mere college prepara- 
tory school would quickly lose its character as a school for life. 

The third choice, both the Trustees and the new Principal were 
convinced, was merely wishful thinking. Bradford might indulge itself 
thus (and did through the turn of the century); Abbot would not. 46 

The Trustees, Miss Watson, and most of Abbot's teachers therefore 
committed themselves to the fourth choice. The Trustees promised in 
the 1892-93 catalogue to make Abbot "no less famous a fitting school 
that it has been and will continue to be as a finishing school." Immedi- 
ately upon her arrival, the new Principal began plans to institute a 
College Preparatory ("C.P.") course, adding the instruction in Greek, 
modern literature, science, and mathematics that would be necessary 
for college entrance. Fifteen students signed up for the C.P. course in 
its very first year. During Miss Watson's six-year tenure, forty-five 
students went on to colleges, and twenty of these received Bachelors 
degrees; in the last six years of Miss McKeen's tenure when college 
opportunities for women had been equally plentiful, the numbers of 
college entrants were nineteen, of college graduates, seven. In Miss 
Watson's two final years, twenty of the sixty-eight Seniors were taking 
the C.P. course, while those in the traditional Academic course could 
select from three other groups of studies, one emphasizing science and 
art, a second emphasizing modern languages and literature, a third 
concentrating in classics, with three years of Latin and Greek. Every 
student was required to study Bible, English composition, and elocution. 

Throughout Miss Watson's tenure, Abbot seems to have drawn both 
inspiration and support from the work of a group of highly influential 
educators who were studying the articulation of curriculum between 
school and college. Philena McKeen and Abbot alumna Anna Dawes 
were not the only people who found many college admissions require- 
ments "tyrannical" and "petty," as Columbia professor Nicholas Mur- 
ray Butler put it in 1892. 47 In 1890 Harvard's President Charles 
W. Eliot had complained before the National Education Association 
(N.E.A.) that hasty Massachusetts legislators had created "a large num- 
ber of low-grade high schools without really expecting them to effect 
any junction with colleges." 48 The N.E.A. quickly determined that the 

1 66 FORTH AND BACK, 1885-1912 

chaos in college admissions was a national problem, and appointed a 
national "Committee of Ten" headed by President Eliot to clear the 
tangle. Five other college presidents joined Eliot, as did the brilliant 
U.S. Commissioner of Education, William T. Harris, and three second- 
ary school principals. All were men; all were hopeful that their recom- 
mendations might set new standards for high school curricula through- 
out the country. 

Private educators eagerly read the Committee's interim reports, 
which suggested a bias away from practical courses and toward the 
traditional curriculum most of them had boasted for decades. As it 
was, privately operated schools were preparing two thirds of the na- 
tion's college entrants for college-level work. 49 They hoped to hold on 
to this role in spite of the dramatic increase in public high school en- 
rollment then under way. Eliot's final report of 1893— distributed free 
by the U.S. Department of Interior to 30,000 principals, superinten- 
dents, and school board members— did indeed stress that "mental dis- 
cipline" that had been a pedagogical watchword since the 1820's, but 
it gave its blessing equally to the traditional classic subjects and to the 
"moderns" (English, modern languages, social sciences, and natural 
sciences). Not surprisingly, given the make-up of the Committee, the 
report recommended that the high school curriculum be constituted 
in such a way that college entrance would be available to every stu- 
dent, even though only a fraction would actually go; thus it offered 
support to Laura Watson if she wished to take it, and provided clear 
guidelines for the reconstruction of the Abbot curriculum. 

It is impossible to tell whether Miss Watson or the Faculty and 
Trustees actually read the Committee of Ten Report. Abbot's four 
new courses of study roughly matched the four alternatives recom- 
mended by the Committee; its classics and literature texts were in line 
with those proposed by the subject area "conferences" which the 
Committee organized to inform its deliberations. 50 Advanced offerings 
in mathematics at Abbot were slimmer than those the Committee had 
suggested, however, and one may wonder how Latin fared after Phebe 
McKeen's death, given that at least one Punchard High School gradu- 
ate of 1898 remembers choosing the public school over Abbot because 
its Latin instruction was so far superior. 51 The Abbot science and his- 
tory courses suggest that the Academy paid scant attention to the 
Committee's injunction that each subject be taught for long enough 
"to win from it the kind of mental training it is fitted to supply." 52 
Students took but half a year of physics and chemistry; Seniors got 
one bite apiece of astronomy (fall), political science or American his- 
tory (winter), and geology (spring). 


Miss Watson eventually took care of Abbot's own college admis- 
sions problem by persuading most of the Northeastern women's col- 
leges to accept her graduates on certificate of recommendation from 
the faculty and by including in the C.P. course all preparation required 
for entrance examinations to Bryn Mawr, RadclifTe and the state uni- 
versities. The most important effect of the Committee of Ten was on 
Abbot's potential constituency. Well before the Committee had com- 
pleted its study, Abbot was responding to the problems that had stimu- 
lated the Committee's formation, and was making ready to enrich its 
traditional offerings with courses similar to those the Committee was 
to recommend for all students. Rising applications soon testified to the 
Trustees' foresight, while the overwhelming success of graduates in 
winning college admission for the next two decades suggested that 
Abbot's new College Preparatory course served its purpose well. 

None of these curricular gymnastics guaranteed good teaching, of 
course. Alumnae of the Watson years later recalled the enthusiasm of 
the several new college graduate teachers Miss Watson hired, but 
Eleanor Thomson Castle, '96, found her classes dull. She best remem- 
bers (1) her friends (female) and (2) their friends (male, Phillips 
Academy). 53 Abbot teaching did not need to be very strong to be 
better than the ordinary, for the standard pedagogy of the day still 
depended on the memorization and recitation of textbook pages, in 
spite of criticism leveled at this practice by leading educators. 54 It was 
satisfying that Abbot could now boast a 5, 000- volume library with a 
growing collection of periodicals and primary sources; a highly capa- 
ble part-time librarian; and teachers like Mabel Bacon, Miss Merrill, 
and Fraulein Schiefferdecker, who welcomed give-and-take within rela- 
tively small classes. Miss Watson's own lively mind provided still more. 
We have evidence of it in a Courant editor's account of her "as toast- 
master" for her first Abbot Thanksgiving. 55 She "never allowed the 
fun to flag, and her opening address, delivered with all the gravity of a 
judge and the inscrutable calmness of a sphinx, was condensed merri- 
ment throughout. Allusion was made to the patriotic sentiments of a 
certain history class who rejoiced that Columbus landed at Plymouth 
Rock and that Jason came over in the Mayflower." 

Abbot's daily schedule and its social traditions Miss Watson left in- 
tact. 56 The parties and the trips were held as always, but the limits re- 
mained clear. Dr. Bancroft received from her a stiff note protesting the 
behavior of Phillips boys in a nearby house, who made a habit of using 
their shaving mirrors to beam sunlight into the eyes of the Seniors re- 
citing psychology with her on the top floors of Abbot Hall. The 
officially sanctioned visiting of the "Cads" went on, as did the semi- 

l68 FORTH AN D BACK, 1885-IOI2 

legal evening serenades and, above all, the celebrations following foot- 
ball victories over Exeter Academy, when hundreds of pajama-clad 
boys shot off Roman candles and yelled their "well known yells" as 
they followed their teams around the Abbot Circle. 57 The Circle al- 
ways emptied on cue when the Hilltop bonfire was ready for lighting; 
the Draper windows closed and the girls went back to their studying 
or prayers. All this provided a sense of continuity for the alumnae and 
the older teachers. Meanwhile, with no weakening of such traditional 
courses as art history and church history, the academic program was 
enriched. Abbot's Principal encouraged clearer departmental division, 
much as Phillips' Principal was doing on the Hilltop. A two-year 
course in music theory, practice, and history provided one point for 
college entrance. Miss Nellie Mason, teacher from 1892 to 1932, who 
had studied science at both Wellesley and RadclifTe, used wisely the 
funds provided by the Trustees to modernize physics and chemistry 
equipment and make possible the "training in scientific method" which 
Miss Watson valued so much. 58 Laboratory science requirements were 
increased for C.P. and "General" students, while girls from other 
courses benefited from being able to elect the strengthened science 
courses. Similarly, a three-year course in Greek was a costly addition, 
but it, too, widened the choices open to Academic Course students. 
Abbot had far more electives than most high schools until the turn of 
the century, when public high schools began to copy Harvard's touted 
elective system. Applications for both Academic and C.P. courses in- 
creased. A thirty-year-old married woman already equipped with 
undergraduate college training spent a year as a day scholar filling gaps 
in her preparation for RadclirTe Graduate School. The "brilliant" Miss 
Ingalls, class of '82, added Anglo-Saxon and Italian Renaissance litera- 
ture to the Literature sequence in order to accommodate such ad- 
vanced students. 

Miss Watson did not neglect the non-college Academic students. 
Abbot's challenging Senior course had been its pride for decades. Miss 
Watson put Butler's Analogy away at last, and replaced it with Wil- 
liam James's equally difficult but less stupefying Psychology. 59 Here 
was a basic change in the Abbot ethos. At the outset of his book James 
warns that "Psychology is to be treated as a natural science." "Mental 
facts cannot be properly studied apart from the physical environment 
of which they take cognizance." 60 He then plunges into detailed dis- 
cussion of the occipital lobes, epithelial cells, afferent nerves, and 
motor and sensory aphasia. He reports on the experimental removal of 
parts of the pigeon's brain, and its effect upon sexual function. 

Nevertheless, Wayland's and Butler's concerns whisper at the door. 


James describes a hierarchy of "selfs," the bodily (material) self, the 
social self, and finally the "supremely precious" spiritual self. 61 He ad- 
mits in his conclusion that his discipline is a science "peculiarly fragile, 
into which the waters of metaphysical criticism leak at every joint." 62 
Abbot students alternately gloried in and moaned over their work in 
psychology. There was plenty of contrary emotion vented in this 
Class Book poem by the Seniors of 1901. 

Ah when we were Senior Middlers 
We were frisky and fresh as you, 
But one day last September 
We all turned prussian blue. 

They dragged us into a classroom, 
They set us round in a row. 
They opened those grim brown covers, 
And said, "How much do you know?" 

They hauled us through those pages, 
(The process was very slow) 
Til we wished that the cerebellum 
Would put on its hat and go. 

They steeped us in Sensation, 
Habit, Attention, Will. 
Of Memorable Emotion 
Each victim had her fill. 

They smiled at our hopeless confusion, 
They choked us with horrible names, 
And whenever we pleaded, reproachful, 
They said, "You must blame Mr. James." 

Enrollment during the Watson years averaged 133 students each 
year in spite of the depression of the 1890's, which played havoc with 
many private schools. 63 Abbot's friends and alumnae remained loyal- 
giving, pledging, or bequeathing $65,000 in new funds (including 
$40,000 from the Drapers) for scholarships, lectureships, the beginning 
of a new building fund, and improvements for Abbot Hall. The Trust- 
ees and Miss Watson together struggled to make Draper Hall a work- 
able building. The frugality with which it was first constructed had 
left it short on radiators and electric fixtures, and its fire protection 
and hot water systems were entirely inadequate. 64 To help the Prin- 
cipal salvage Draper Hall, Warren Draper himself came back from re- 
tirement as Trustee Building Superintendent in 1897, after a series of 

170 FORTH AND BACK, 1885-IQI2 

inept professionals had been tried and dismissed. 65 From her first year 
at the Academy, Miss Watson gently pushed the Trustees for a new 
classroom building equipped to accommodate modern teaching meth- 
ods, 66 and her students began raising money for the new structure. 
These spirited young women also became secretly proud of Abbot 
Hall's age and simple dignity; they helped teachers feature it in a 
prize-winning exhibit at the 1893 World's Fair and Exposition in Chi- 
cago. Meantime a gradual stabilizing of the ratio between boarders and 
day scholars allowed the Trustees finally to close Smith Hall in 1897, 
eliminating the now shabby, unfashionable dormitory without loss of 
income for the school. 67 

Still, there could be no smooth sailing through such a changeful 
period. Almost everyone assures us that Philena McKeen retired with 
perfect humility to Sunset Lodge. Certainly much of her energy went 
into old and new Andover friendships and expanded civic work for 
the November Club and the Andover Village Improvement Society. 
Esther Parker Lovett, '08, one of the few living graduates who knew 
Miss McKeen, remembers, for instance, how serene the old lady 
seemed, under her beautiful white curls, when she stayed with the 
Parker family. She ate her morning oatmeal Scottish fashion, dipping 
her spoon alternately into a bowl of porridge and a bowl of cream, 
and laughed when one of Esther's brothers sang her a slightly ribald 
railroad song popular in the mid-nineties. 68 She continued to fear, how- 
ever, that her Academy would "sink to the level of a [college] pre- 
paratory school," and to believe that Abbot's own Academic Course 
should have "the place of honor"; she said so often and in public. 69 
She was always near at hand, substituting for a convalescent teacher of 
church history through the winter of 1 896, being invited to lecture on 
Saturday afternoons. Laura Watson's "task was made no easier by Miss 
McKeen's presence at Sunset Lodge," said former teacher Mabel Bacon 
Ripley from the safe distance of the year 1941. 70 Nor could veteran 
teachers like Katherine Kelsey hide their nostalgia for the time when 
girls read "Livy and Horace . . . because they wished to do it, and not 
because the reading was prescribed by any college for admission to 
its doors," as Miss Kelsey put it in later years. 71 In her search for 
college-trained teachers, Miss Watson broke Miss McKeen's tradition 
of hiring the standout graduates of almost every Senior class; even the 
presence of teacher-alumna Henrietta Learoyd Sperry on the Board of 
Trustees did not assuage all alumna grumbling. 72 Both older teachers 
and alumnae may well have complained with education journalist 
Frank Kasson that President Eliot's male-dominated study-pressure 
group was trying to "capture" the American high school "and recon- 


struct it in the interest of the university." 73 Abbot's freedom from the 
rigidity and pretentiousness that characterized many institutions was a 
precious commodity; Laura Watson was a singularly independent soul 
herself, but she had to modernize Abbot's curriculum amid punishing 
cross-pressures from her strong-minded constituency. 

For all Miss Watson's courage, she was shy with most students and 
difficult to know. Those who knew her well loved her well, but the 
countless others who were more distant realized the importance of her 
quiet, transforming work for Abbot Academy too late to reassure her 
when she most needed support. Miss Watson "gave it up," supposedly 
for reasons of health, in June 1898. Almost immediately she left for 
Europe and a period of extended study. Perhaps it had all been just 
too much. Or possibly she had resigned for the good of the school, 
realizing that someone new could more easily consolidate the curricu- 
lar innovations she had wrought. If so, the Trustees' choice of a new 
principal was ironic, for they elected Emily A. Means, an Abbot gradu- 
ate of 1869 from a respected Abbot-Andover family, who had been 
part of school life for much of the McKeen era, having left only when 
Miss McKeen retired. Following years of art study in Boston and 
Paris, Miss Means had taken charge of the Abbot Art Department 
for fifteen years— a part-time job, to be sure, but one which involved 
her increasingly in the life of the school as she took over some 
of Miss McKeen's teaching and dormitory duties during those last 
busy years. The Class of '87, having had her as teacher in both art his- 
tory and painting, unanimously voted art "their favorite study." 74 She 
was the active President of the Abbot Academy Alumnae Association 
from 1890 to 1898, serving six of those years from her brother's home 
in Summit, New Jersey, where she painted, wrote, and gave art les- 
sons. Those who knew her best were most surprised when she accepted 
the principalship, for she was trading the freedom of a creative, lei- 
sured artist for the merciless demands sure to be made upon the chief 
administrator of a boarding academy. They guessed that her love of 
Abbot had moved her, along with the Trustees' assurance of Miss Mc- 
Keen's continued presence and advice. 

Then, unexpectedly, Philena McKeen died. It was May of 1 898 and 
Emily Means had not yet arrived in Andover. Bereft, but far too 
proud to back down now, Miss Means came on to make all she could 
of the new-old school Miss Watson had left her, stiffening herself 
against the winds that were already ushering in the twentieth century. 


The disquiet of women . . . is part of the general disturbance. 
Edward Sandford Martin, 191 2 

You, alumnae . . . by you Abbot is judged. 
Bertha Bailey, 191 2 

The girls and women living through change within Abbot Academy 
could see much greater changes without, were they willing to look- 
transformations that affected their Abbot careers and shaped all gradu- 
ates' futures. As Henry Steele Commager has written of the i89o's, 
"The new America came in as on a floodtide." 1 A national population 
once overwhelmingly rural was now 40 percent urban. Per capita wealth 
had nearly doubled in the last two decades of the century— and the gap 
between rich and poor was astonishing. At a time when the disappear- 
ance of free or cheap western lands was narrowing economic oppor- 
tunity, Darwin's theories lent these disparities a new seriousness: for 
the wealthy and "fit," they brought self- justification, for the poor and 
their sympathizers, an erosion of Victorian optimism. "The survival of 
the fittest" at first buttressed the missionary enthusiasm that had been 
central to Abbot's values. A Courant writer cheered the Protestant mis- 
sionaries' conversion of the "ignorant and degraded" Hawaiians; 2 she 
failed to record that the sons of these same missionaries quietly took 
over the best of the Hawaiians' land for pineapple and sugar planta- 
tions. As religious concerns waned, semi-secular enthusiasms filled the 
vacuum. Americans were wild with excitement at the triumph in Cuba 
of their freedom fighters over the cruel Catholic Spaniards in 1898. 
Abbot's Emily Means wrote a friend that her mind was so absorbed by 
the "Cuba affair" that she could think of nothing else. 3 A United States 
just staggering out from a frightening period of depression, rural de- 
spair and labor strife had needed that swift proof of its fitness and 
virtue. Few of the patriots knew or cared that the Spanish-American 
War ended three years later in a remote Pacific archipelago after the 
slaughter of 300,000 Philippino "pagans" and "rebels" by American 


By 1900 the "New American" Progressives, both male and female, 
had pushed messy overseas crusades aside and were organizing to attack 
domestic disparities of wealth and power. A growing coalition pushed 
for wider suffrage, for better jobs and working conditions, for im- 
proved schooling. On the women's rights front, the pioneers fought on, 
but there have always been pioneers. More impressive is the number of 
women who now accepted once-radical rhetoric or who were goaded 
to join an antisuffrage opposition just as loud, active, and unladylike. 
The question Abbot's founders had asked in the 1820's was now more 
insistent than ever: For what futures should young women prepare? 

The founders' answers had been provoking enough when it was still 
assumed by many that study of mathematics and Greek would shrivel 
up the generative organs, and grade-school teaching was the only non- 
manual occupation widely open to women "of the better sort." 4 Now 
work opportunities had mushroomed. Although the actual number of 
women in the nonteaching professions was small (they made 6 percent 
of all physicians in 19 10), 20 percent of all women were bringing 
money home, or keeping it and living with a new sense of indepen- 
dence from men. 5 Their husbands' increasing income did its part too, 
freeing large numbers of middle and upper class women to immerse 
themselves in volunteer social service, club activities, or suffrage cam- 
paigns. "What chiefly makes the disturbance" women feel, Edward 
Martin pontificated, "is enlargement of opportunity." 6 By 1909 the 
word "obey" had disappeared from civil marriage vows. In vain did 
the influential Ladies Home Journal remind its readers that "what men 
liked most in women was milk." 7 

Within Abbot and without, faith in education as a means to national 
progress had never been stronger: as Lawrence Cremin has written 
of this new reformist generation, "the Progressive mind was ulti- 
mately an educator's mind." 8 And for wealthier women, at least, equal 
educational opportunities were at last a reality. Bryn Mawr College 
had let the world know it would accept only students who could 
qualify for the best men's colleges, and would award its diploma only 
to those who had met graduate-school admissions standards. All-female 
governing boards in a few new private schools proved that women 
could found and run educational institutions without men's help. The 
Trustees of the new and excellent Johns Hopkins Medical School had 
reluctantly accepted their largest founding donation from a group of 
women who made their gift conditional on the school's accepting qual- 
ified women students on the same basis as men. 9 

Not everyone cheered. Truth seemed to be catching up with the 
predictions of Cassandras that independence for women would lead to 

174 FORTH AND BACK, 1885-I9U 

decline of the Anglo-Saxon race. Americans were alarmed to find in 
19 10 that only half of all women college graduates (and little more 
than one quarter of Bryn Mawr graduates of 1890) were married. The 
national birth rate was falling fast, and that for educated women even 
faster. The average number of children for each woman of child-bear- 
ing age went from 5.2 in i860 to 3.4 in 19 10; for Abbot alumnae it 
was 0.9. The Commissioner of Education himself worried about the 
problem, quoting male observers who bemoaned the "calamity" of 
educated women's refusal to marry. College was an "artificial world," 
insisted one of them, a theater stage with "its Bengal lights and its self- 
centered interests." No wonder marriage looked dim; it suggested 
"narrowness and social limitation" to the pampered college girl. 10 Even 
women's dress was changing. Abbot students of the 90's were amused 
and almost convinced by an alumna lecture on bloomers and other 
liberating clothes. The college girl's mother might have worn her cor- 
set only under protest, but many a college girl refused to wear it at all. 

The reaction of women to these developments was often as confused 
as that of men. By about 1900, for example, the original unity of the 
suffrage movement had disappeared. It was easy enough to go to war 
on the principle that women should vote, but when opportunities for 
specific battles presented themselves, strategists flew in all directions. 
Should the suffragists go all out for a federal amendment, work state 
by state, or make common cause with the usually moderate WCTU to 
get a foot in the door through local liquor-license referenda? Should 
women insist on full occupational equality, or support the "special 
legislation" now being pushed by Progressive politicians, which prom- 
ised better working conditions for women and children? The stances 
taken by individual women— including the women of Abbot Acade- 
my—usually depended on their ambition to join the world that men 
had made. 

To educators and to many of their pupils, M. Carey Thomas, first 
dean and first woman president of Bryn Mawr College, was perhaps 
the most striking model for those seeking full and immediate equality 
in a man's world. From her girlhood as oldest child in a large Quaker 
family, she had determined on it for herself. When she was fourteen, 
she heard a lecturer draw disparaging conclusions from the "fact" that 
women's brains weigh less than men. She decided then that "by the 
time I die my brain shall weigh as much as any man's, if study and 
learning can make it so." Loving furious physical activity, she raged in 
her diary against the confinement of girls to quiet play and house- 
work: "Oh my how terrible how fearfully unjust. A girl can certainly 


do what she chooses as well as a boy. When I grow up— we'll see what 
will happen." 11 What happened was that she became a member of 
Cornell University's first coeducational class, having "spurned Vassar 
as an advanced female seminary"; 12 sampled but refused to tolerate the 
restrictions set on women graduate students at Johns Hopkins; and 
pursued graduate study in Germany in spite of the shock expressed by 
her parents' Quaker friends, who either spoke to her mother as though 
Carey had become a Fallen Woman or refused even to mention her 
name. She won her Doctorate in Philology summa cum laude from 
the University of Zurich, an accomplishment rare for men and un- 
precedented for women. At age thirty-six she was elected President of 
Bryn Mawr, temporarily satisfying what she called her "troublesome 
desire to get to the bottom and the top of everything," 13 though years 
later she would sigh regretfully to a friend over her frustration that 
she should be "only the President of Bryn Mawr College." 14 

But Carey Thomas' ambition created more than an ornamental 
model of women's scholarly and administrative competence; indeed she 
had her full share of human quirks, all played out in large scale. She 
aimed to make her college and all the women's political and educa- 
tional organizations which she also led engines of sexual equality, truly 
useful to everyone from the upper-class women who flocked to Bryn 
Mawr College and Graduate School to the women factory hands and 
union organizers who studied at the Bryn Mawr Summer School for 
Women Workers. She was as much a publicist for women's equality 
as she was an educator. Just as the trainees from the Summer School 
fanned out all over the country, speaking several times to appreciative 
Abbot audiences to raise money for their School, Carey Thomas wrote 
and spoke everywhere. She railed against fashionable male physicians 
such as Dr. Edward Clarke, who had insisted that women were too 
delicate for college study, and had scolded secondary schools for ex- 
pecting sustained intellectual effort of girls every day of the month, 
thus "ignor(ing) the periodical tide," and forcing their bodies to "di- 
vert blood from the reproductive apparatus to the head." 15 She con- 
tested the august judgments of such as Harvard's President Eliot, who 
in 1899 declared at Wellesley that women's colleges should not shape 
themselves by the old scholarly traditions: after all, said Eliot, women 
had had no part in creating these traditions, and furthermore their 
bodies were so different from men's that their intellects must be also. 
It was national news when President Thomas rebuked Eliot for having 
"sun spots" on his brain. 16 Thus it was not only the Titans who squared 
off. This new debate over the purposes of women's education echoed 

176 FORTH AND BACK, 1885-IQI2 

at Abbot Academy's dining tables, in its faculty room, on the pages of 
Courant, and, doubtless, around many an Abbot alumna's sewing circle 
as well. 

President Eliot might be a tempting target for women seeking un- 
questioned equality with men, but many women, at Abbot and else- 
where, found they agreed with him. They wondered why Carey 
Thomas and her ilk should be "fighting to get an education just as bad 
as the boys'," as Diana Trilling has put it. Had not Godey's Lady's 
Book long ago scolded Vassar for trying to copy the "semi-obselete" 
curricula of Harvard and Yale? 17 These careful skeptics saw the lee- 
way that had been so beneficial to schools like Abbot disappearing as 
America began to take women scholars seriously, and to demand that 
they and their schools prove themselves against male competition. 

Well might graduating seniors and their parents ask, "After College, 
What?" as a popular pamphlet put it. Many of these young women 
were "all dressed up with no place to go." 18 In spite of new oppor- 
tunities, the professions could not or would not absorb the majority of 
new graduates looking for work that matched their educational status. 
Had all that tuition money bought nothing but frustration? A Bac- 
calaureate speaker (male, as always) provided an easy answer for the 
Abbot Seniors of 1905: "do well the little things next door instead of 
longing for a career." 19 In Andover's upper-income circles alumna 
Eleanor Thomson Castle (Abbot, '92- '96) remembers from her child- 
hood that to take a job was to insult your father or husband and to 
deprive a poorer woman of her rightful work. She herself knew no 
woman who had a job, except the family servants. (It should be said 
that several of Mrs. Castle's Abbot contemporaries vehemently ex- 
pressed their disagreement in Courant editorials.) 20 It was easy to be 
flattered when male anti-suffragists asserted that woman 

has not incorporated in her nature those qualities as mystical and 
holy as the life which she transmits to the world; she has not 
become . . . the very savior of our life, in order that she may 
turn traitor to herself and her ideal for a paltry bit of paper, and 
boast that, from being man's superior, she has now become his 
equal. 21 

Many young women sincerely believed with "Mrs. George of Brook- 
line," who came twice to speak to Abbot students under Miss Means, 
that women could accomplish more to improve society if they refused 
the vote, for the disenfranchised "are not hindered by political scru- 
ples and can act unbiased by party opinions." 22 The audience liked it. 
Mary Byers Smith, '04, remembers few feminists in Miss Means' Abbot. 23 


Curiously, the mass of traditionalists found themselves on the same 
side of the suffrage issue as angry social critics like Emma Goldman, 
who rejected the whole corrupt political system, along with capitalism 
and traditional, male-dominated marriage. These radicals saw little 
worth voting about in American society. They found it ridiculous 
that colleges like Bryn Mawr should set faculty hiring standards which 
very few women could meet. They added an alluring, man-threaten- 
ing voice to the debate over women's roles— and Abbot students' futures. 

The Dear Old Girls 

For Abbot alumnae, the future was here. The alumnae group was now 
so large, and so many Old Scholars kept in touch with their school, 
that their lives and doings became for the students of the Watson- 
Means era a part of Abbot education. Though alumnae statistics usual- 
ly tell less about a school than they do about the families who sent 
their daughters there and the opportunities open to women, they do 
say something about a private school's attractive powers, its general 
ethos, and its capacity for skill training. This last may be discounted 
by the alumnae themselves, especially those thousands who achieve no 
great eminence in later life. One early Abbot graduate, Ellen Bartlett 
Hodgdon, '69, put it frankly in her message to the Semicentennial, a 
letter which (to Abbot's credit) was read aloud at the Old Scholars 
celebration: "My prevailing feeling is dissatisfaction that I labored so 
hard to learn many things that after all I have not particularly needed." 
But Mrs. Hodgdon went on to show how a school— especially a board- 
ing school— may impart its values and its human spirit, for better or 
worse. "The education was being with women like Miss McKeen, Miss 
Phebe and all the teachers," she finished. These influences are difficult 
for scholars to quantify. 

Most Abbot alumnae before 1900, married and unmarried, stayed 
close to home with their 0.9 children (married alumnae had an aver- 
age of two), their church work, their painting or music, and, toward 
the end of the century, their social service and women's club work. 
Numbers of these taught briefly before marriage, joining the 10 per- 
cent of all Abbot graduates who made education a career. On the 
roster of the earliest Abbot alumnae there is a principal of Mt. Hol- 
yoke Seminary, another principal of Bradford, one of an urban girls' 
high school (fourteen years), of a city grammar school (thirty years), 
of a A4assachusetts coeducational academy, and a founder-principal of 
a small Boston school (ten years). After 1840, however, Abbot was not 

178 FORTH AND BACK, 1885-IQI2 

especially known for training teachers, as were Ipswich and Mt. Hol- 
yoke. 24 Of the fraction who had careers outside of teaching, several 
were musicians, artists, authors, accountants, or nurses; twenty-four 
were foreign missionaries, and as many more worked full time in home 
missions to the Indians, the freed blacks, or city slum-dwellers. In the 
nineteenth century secretaries, accountants, and librarians were usually 
men, as were physicians, but Abbot gave the world a few such any- 
way, including Caroline Jackson, '51, who ably assisted her father, 
Samuel, in his job as Massachusetts' Assistant Secretary of Education. 
Mary Graves, '58, became an ordained Unitarian minister, active and 
successful in her work. 

Alumnae of the years before Philena McKeen retired, whether mar- 
ried or not, were much less likely to have a full-time job during their 
lives (about 16 percent) than were alumnae of the Watson-Means era 
(about 25 percent, with 30 percent for the final decade of this 
period). 25 Married alumnae of the later period chose handsomely, near- 
ly all of them marrying college-educated men of the business-profes- 
sional class (two thirds of whom were graduates of prominent Ivy 
League level Northeastern colleges), with about 40 percent marrying 
businessmen or bankers, 30 percent professionals such as lawyers, pro- 
fessors, or physicians, and 15 percent marrying ministers. The last fig- 
ure is interesting in the light of earlier statistics, for a quarter of all 
wedded alumnae before 1870 married ministers or missionaries, and the 
Congregationalist reported of Abbot alumnae: "Some have said that 
they make the best wives in the whole country for ministers." 26 Only 
a few alumnae of the Watson-Means era were happy (or unhappy) 
with farmers, musician-composers, news reporters, and baggage-masters. 

The working alumnae chose some intriguing jobs. Mary R. Kimball, 
'43, traveled south to Roanoke, N.C., as soon as the Union troups had 
pacified the island, and taught the "freed people, very earnest to learn" 
for ten years. 27 Rebecca Bacon, '37, helped to launch Hampton Insti- 
tute; in fact she had entire charge of the school during two of its early 
years, though, typically, the titular head was a man. Elizabeth Richard- 
son, '99, trained to become a nurse for the Grenfell mission in Lab- 
rador. Cora Brown Campbell, '91, was a builder-contractor, Annie 
Edwards, '55, the first postmistress in the nation. Mary C. Wheeler, 
'66, skilled artist and teacher, became so dissatisfied with the schools 
she taught in after Abbot that she founded one of her own, the still- 
existing Wheeler School in Providence, Rhode Island. Sarah Jenness, 
'64, went to the Boston University School of Medicine soon after it 
was opened to women in the 1880's and became a physician to the 
poor— first in Boston, then in rural New Hampshire. Abbie Hamlin, 
'66, Henrietta's youngest daughter, and her half-sister, Clara Hamlin, 


'73, taught at Vassar and at Skutari, Turkey, respectively, before mar- 
rying missionaries and taking up their parents' work. Helen Bartlett, 
'74, B.A. and Ph.D. Bryn Mawr, and Alice Hamlin, '87, Ph.D. Cornell, 
became college professors, though Alice Hamlin Hinman gave up paid 
teaching while her children needed her care, and devoted much of her 
time to organizing midwestern church support for the Turkish missions. 

Emily Skilton, '84, entered "Woman Rescue Work" 28 as a Florence 
Crittenton League volunteer, became a city missionary and prominent 
figure in the Lowell, Massachusetts, police court as advocate and friend 
of wayward girls, then enrolled in the Boston School for Social Work, 
qualifying to become probation officer and, finally, Lowell's first 
policewoman. She lived happily with other single women at the 
Lowell YWCA, an organization powerfully supported by Abbot's 
alumnae, especially those of the several years during the Watson- 
Means era when the "Abbot Christian Workers" functioned as a 
YWCA club. Unusual as policewomen were at the time, Emily Skil- 
ton's career followed a common pattern for ambitious Abbot gradu- 
ates and women professionals generally: they began by doing volunteer 
work that had become accepted as "woman's work" with children or 
church, took professional training, then became fully paid career 
workers in fields that had once been dominated by men. Jane Greeley, 
'84, Abbot teacher 1886-93, M.D. '97, then practitioner, did exactly 
this; so did her medical colleague Sarah Jenness, '64. Others began 
and ended with the world of children. Mrs. Kate Douglas Wiggin, an 
early Courant editor, was known in her time as much for her organi- 
zation of kindergartens in the poorer districts of San Francisco as for 
her best-selling children's books. 29 

Only the thinnest of lines could be drawn between the alumna 
career-woman and the unmarried alumna volunteer, who subsisted on 
an independent income and made an unpaid career of social service in 
city slum or windswept prairie mission. Clearly there was great work 
to be done for which the market would not pay; since so many men 
exhausted themselves in their search for riches, women must do that 
higher work. Jane Addams, Lillian Wald, and other women of means 
had become heroines among some Abbot students; all heard many 
lectures each year from lesser but equally devoted figures in the settle- 
ment house or Consumer's League Movement. Like many spinsters, 
Caroline Jackson, '51, was alternately teacher, secretary, and com- 
munity volunteer. With Philena McKeen she organized Andover's 
local WCTU, then led the victorious no-license campaign of 1905. 
Mrs. Charlotte Emerson Brown, '51, married but childless, drew on her 
early experience in teaching and administration eventually to found 
several women's organizations and to carry out her demanding duties 

l8o FORTH AND BACK, I 8 8 5 — I 9 I 2 

as first president of the General Federation of Women's Clubs, founded 
in 1890, with a membership of 185 clubs in twenty-nine states. 30 Mar- 
ried alumnae often became full-time volunteers once their children 
were grown. However, Emily Reed, '67, didn't let twelve children 
prevent her from working indefatigably for suffrage. She and Agnes 
Park went to the State House repeatedly to push for the 1895 suffrage 
referendum. "These two women stood alone in conservative Andover 
for the progress of women," a League of Women Voters bulletin re- 
ported in 193 1. 

Many Abbot alumnae married late, as did most graduates of the 
newer women's colleges, after a season of paid work; 31 their experience 
as newspaper reporters or school administrators was invaluable to the 
women's literary clubs or service organizations they soon joined. If 
they had had a job or been to college, their daughters were very likely 
to become college graduates. 32 One minister's wife (Sarah Rockwell 
Leete, '81) had three daughters, all college graduates, and three sons, 
two of them distinguished businessmen and the third a missionary to 
China. Alice Purington Holt, '95, marvelously exemplified Abbot's 
nineteenth-century ideal. She needed no further education to teach 
history, literature, and music at Gould Academy, Maine, for six years, 
nor to find a "solid citizen" and highly respected businessman from 
one of Andover's oldest families as husband in 1901. 33 Her two chil- 
dren were born several years apart, and the mother had ample time to 
be president of the November Club, to lead the Women's Missionary 
Committee at South Church, and to work for the Abbot Alumnae 
Association. She eventually became a chief organizer and president of 
the Massachusetts Congregationalist Women's Association Conference 
and of the Inter-Church Missionary Rally. With her powerful energy 
and executive ability, she could easily have commanded a salary some- 
where, but she worked for love— and, doubtless, for the excitement and 
prestige of it all. 

Numbers of alumnae became writers. Two of those most widely 
read by Abbot students— and by the public— were Anna Fuller, '72, 
and Octave Thanet (Alice French, '68) ; 34 the lives and writings of 
these two presented images of outside-Abbot realities as contradictory 
as the world itself appeared from inside Abbot's walls. Nearly all Anna 
Fuller's heroines are fresh young things of sixteen to twenty-three, 
lovely to look at, inventive and high-spirited, but ultrafeminine. They 
never go to college, though they may be at art school. They come 
either from fashionable families or from poor-but-virtuous families 
whom they by their luck and pluck manage to elevate into the rich- 
but-virtuous category. In "Blythe Hallidav's Voyage," the heroine is 


crossing the Atlantic with her "Mumsey" and a select group of fellow 
first-class passengers, including a handsome (safely married) poet and 
an old Italian count. By chance she discovers a pale Italian waif in 
steerage whose fine eyes betray her aristocratic ancestry and who is 
reunited with her long lost grandfather (the Italian count, of course) 
by the compassionate detective work of Blythe and her platonic poet- 
friend. "Oh Mumsey!" she concludes, "How beautiful the world is 
with you and me right in the very middle of it!" 35 

Meanwhile, Octave Thanet continued her frenetic explorations of 
places and ideas, flitting through Andover for some "delicious repar- 
tee" with Abbot students, 36 settling down only in summertime at the 
deserted Cape Cod mill which she rented at $3.00 a summer for her 
writing and photography work. Born in 1850 in the Double Brick 
house on Andover Hill, she had gone West as a small child when her 
father determined that Davenport, Iowa, offered him a scope for his 
financial ambitions that old Andover could never provide. Alice found 
as much to learn from the polyglot Mississippi River town as from its 
public high school, but when it was time to complete her education, 
only Vassar would do for this oldest, only girl of the French family. 
Yet once she got there, Vassar seemed to her narrowly snobbish, a 
place where the pretentious daughters of the Civil War rich certified 
their new status, and she left after a term, entering Abbot Academy 
in 1867 for her Senior year. There on Andover Hill, the meld of intel- 
lectual elitism and protestant virtue was so firmly ensconced that it re- 
quired no proofs. Alice French reveled in a rich mix of friends, and in 
the thorough training in writing and English literature given the Smith 
Hall contingent. Her biographer writes that "the school's reflection of 
a stable and ordered society shaped her virtues and heightened her de- 
lusions." 37 When she graduated, she was not at all sure she was ready 
for her future. As she wrote her classmate Anna Dawes, 

I'm sorry and I'm glad and I'm a little frightened. The world is 
so large and a woman's future is so uncertain. Life is getting to 
look remarkably queer and earnest. 38 

In spite of uncertainty, Alice French-Octave Thanet remained inde- 
pendent of men. She was a saleswoman for her own books (one of the 
first woman writers to do this), an avid supporter of striking workers 
in her youth, later a foe of woman suffrage and a friend of Teddy 
Roosevelt. She specialized in dialect studies of families from Quebec 
or the bottom lands of Arkansas, but she admired Tolstoi, and one of 
her most urgent concerns was the plight of the sharecropper and the 
urban factory worker. For a while her thinking assumed a Marxist 

l82 FORTH AND BACK, I 8 8 5 — I 9 I 2 

cast. She gave up fellow alumna Elizabeth Stuart Phelps' hope for 
"justice" in the mills "based on understanding and Christian kindli- 
ness." 39 A reviewer of one of her early articles, "The English Work- 
ingmen and Commercial Crises" praised "Mr. Thanet's" insight into 
the history of labor struggles and their relationship to technological 
change. 40 Thanet predicted in this article the beginning of a "class 
contest"; she elaborated on the capital-labor conflict in The Lion's 
Share; than finally, in her voluminous novel The Man of the Hour 
(1905), she found a synthesis between her youthful enthusiasm for 
European socialist thought and her admiration of the American entre- 
preneur. It takes her 465 pages to bring John Ivan Winslow from lisp- 
ing boyhood in a Missouri river town, through impetuous socialist 
youth (during which he travels to Russia to visit the new grave of 
his beautiful Nihilist-aristocrat mother), to manhood as a benevolent 
capitalist of "stainless life," a manhood well schooled by his earlier 
strivings as an anonymous trade-union organizer through the great and 
futile Pullman Strike. One is impatient with the length and com- 
plexity of the tale until one suddenly realizes that this is a Russian 
novel written in English! And sure enough, on page 323 John-Ivan's 
difficulty and promise are at once made clear: "He had a Puritan con- 
science and a Russian imagination." The same might be said for Octave 
Thanet. Together, hero and author recognize that the tyranny of labor 
can be as ruinous as the tyranny of capital, and praise the tenacity of 
the Anglo-Saxon spirit, which "always demands the works without 
which faith is dead." 41 It is a brave if undisciplined book; one doubts it 
would ever have found a place in the Abbot library next to the works 
of Longfellow and Stevenson had Octave Thanet-Alice French not 
been one of Abbot's own. 

Again, Anna Fuller and Alice French, along with many other alum- 
nae, testify to the variety of fledglings that Abbot could hatch. Unlike 
Bryn Mawr students, Abbot students do not seem to have been gradu- 
ated with the insistence they do something Grand, nor were they easy 
prey to the guilt that later attaches to unrealized aspirations. Life in 
the ordinary muddled world was challenge enough for many: if most 
alumnae added little to the public record of these turn-of-the century 
years, each one must cope in her own way with their confusion and 
their promise, drawing for help on whatever resources Abbot Acade- 
my had provided them. 

'A New England Aristocrat" 

Earth's noblest thing— a woman perfected 
James Russell Lowell 

Emily Means, '69, appeared unintimidated by the catches and changes 
of life within Abbot and beyond. Short in stature but as straight as 
those lines she made her beginning art pupils endlessly draw, she was 
"a lady of the old school" 1 in every sense of the word. She dressed 
much as she had done in the McKeen years, with a high-boned collar 
and a rich satin train that swished slowly as she walked. 2 In her photo- 
graphs she has a dignified beauty, but her contemporaries say no, she 
was not beautiful; she was impressive, rather— erect and severe with a 
set mouth, a person of few words and powerful opinions. 

One of her opinions was that college was not necessary to a lady's 
future. Indeed, Miss Means seems to have felt that there was some 
social taint attached to college attendance, ironic in view of the fact 
that most of the students in women's colleges clearly came from upper 
income (if not upper class) groups, and Abbot's own College Pre- 
paratory scholars "felt contemptuous of the finishing school idea" as 
embodied in the Academic Course. 3 Emily Means herself had not re- 
quired college training to become a sophisticated artist and linguist. 
She had traveled extensively and was literate in three foreign lan- 
guages; her library shelves were heavy with French, Italian, and 
German works. Her intellectual mother and minister father had pre- 
pared her so well for Abbot that she taught French instead of studying 
it when she first entered the school in 1867. A profoundly independent 
person, she saw no reason for most young women to continue to de- 
pend upon formal institutions or the credentials they conferred: Abbot 
Academy should be sufficient. 4 

But Miss Means was dutiful as well. If the Trustees had ordained a 
C.P. Program, she would continue it, adjusting it here to the needs of 
Abbot's C.P. students, there to the standards of the new College En- 
trance Examination Board, well enough organized by 1901 to supply 
uniform entrance exams for most colleges in the Middle Atlantic 
states. 5 Some colleges could be trusted more than others. Had not 

1 84 FORTH AND BACK, 1885-1912 

2j. Emily A. Means, Principal, 1898-1912. The picture was taken when she 
was an art instructor at Abbot. 

Smith been founded for the young woman "to preserve her woman- 
liness," in the words of Clark Seelye, Smith's first President and Ab- 
bot's friend? 6 Though Bryn Mawr and Radcliffe continued to insist on 
their own entrance exams, Abbot had by this time obtained "certificate 
privileges" at Smith, Vassar, Simmons, Mt. Holyoke, and Wellesley, 
the colleges attended by most of Abbot's C.P. students since 1892. The 
numbers of C.P. students would decline under Miss Means to fewer 
than half those of Laura Watson's final years (there were two C.P. 
Seniors in 1903), but Abbot's academic standing would remain high. 
Miss Means did not actively discourage even the Academic Course 
graduates from going on to further training and a few gained advanced 
standing in four-year colleges on the basis of the Abbot Academic 
diploma. 7 Bowing to student and parent complaints, she hid her opin- 
ion that graduating C.P. Seniors "were leaving before they were 
done," 8 and acceeded to the Trustees' injunction that they be allowed 
to receive diplomas and to march to Commencement behind the Aca- 
demic Seniors near the head of the line, no longer behind the Prep 
class at its very tail. 9 She asked the Trustees to strengthen science and 
history courses to meet the colleges' standards. To her credit, some of 
those who most admired Miss Means' independence and learning were 
C.P. students. 10 

There was much else to admire— and much to criticize. "Her great 
quality, inspiring to some, to others rather terrifying, was her power 

4 4 


to discern the best in people; and to tolerate nothing less," wrote 
Mabel Bacon Ripley, who had known Miss Means as one of her vulner- 
able beginning teachers. 11 "The best" had some prerequisites. Miss 
Means believed in aristocracies, both natural and established. In seek- 
ing both teachers and students, she looked for long family lines. "Blood 
tells, blood counts, doesn't it?" she rhetorically asked Trustee Burton 
Flagg in discussing a would-be teacher. 12 Without formal entrance 
examinations (they had been dropped when applications fell during 
the final McKeen decade), Abbot got some blooded students who 
found languages or mathematics almost impossible; it seems to still- 
living alumnae that a few wealthy parents simply dumped their daugh- 
ters there, and were disappointed when they failed to graduate. For 
the faculty did not shrink from denying diplomas. After all, Abbot's 
academic standards remained uppermost: the Academy was not con- 
sidered a "social school" like Farmington. Genuine academic effort 
was rewarded, even for the feeble, says Constance Parker Chipman, '06: 
"I think they were quite compassionate, that is, when they knew it 
was hopeless." But the indolent were dropped. 

Abbot students heard Saturday lectures about Jewish immigrants and 
the Irish communities in Boston, but neither Jew nor Catholic was 
allowed anywhere near the Academy itself. This was not unusual at 
the time: the wealthiest Jewish families could no more get their daugh- 
ters into the typical girls' private school than they could join the sub- 
urban country clubs or take the waters at Saratoga Springs. 13 Yet most 
colleges were becoming nonsectarian, and the pioneering Bryn Mawr 
School had long admitted girls of any race or religion who would be 
"suitable companions" to those already in the school, 14 thereby attract- 
ing a wealthy and daring Jewish clientele. Miss Means's social adven- 
turousness took another direction. Years before, she had demonstrated 
it in her free evening school for twenty working men and boys, who 
came every Tuesday night for two years to study drawing and design 
in the Andover Town Hall. Uninterested in the commonplace, she 
cared deeply about the unpromising girl who showed some small 
streak of talent or worth. She accepted one little farm girl from 
Maine, "an absolute aborigine," remembers a friend of Emily Means, 
who eventually graduated and brought a wealth of intellectual and 
artistic interests from Abbot to enrich the life of her home town. This 
search for pearls had its drawbacks, however. Students sometimes felt 
that Miss Means had far less concern for the average girl than for the 
unruly one: "she liked the naughty girls who weren't afraid of her," 
and she spent much time and kindness upon them, 15 while an ordinary 
student in trouble would be harshly scolded, often enough reduced to 

1 86 FORTH AND BACK, 1885-I912 

tears, and then dismissed from her mind— sometimes from the school 

To Miss Means decorum and civilization were synonymous. She was 
not amused when day scholars Eleanor Thomson and her sister came 
to Chapel with black armbands, mourning the death of their beloved 
dog. With the Principal's encouragement, the elocution and posture 
teacher barked at the students in her classes ("Lift your torso!") and 
at the practice "tea parties" in the library ("Straighten up" or "Don't 
make a meal of your tea!"). 16 Though the food was delicious, especial- 
ly following the tuition raise in 1903, dining-room decorum made it 
hard to enjoy one's meal, and still harder for mediocre language stu- 
dents, who had to eat in French or German. 17 Neither gossip nor shop 
talk about academies was allowed in any language at any table; at Miss 
Means's table one dared not even ask for a second helping. Young 
Mabel Bacon loved to laugh with her students and tell jokes; despite 
the supposed formality, her entire table was "in roars of laughter" at 
many a meal, says Mary Byers Smith, '04. Too many. Miss Means ar- 
ranged for this "youngish, gay individual" to eat at the table right 
next to hers. The punchline one night was an imitation of a parrot that 
had learned to say "to hell with yale." The Principal stopped what 
she was saying in midsentence and glared over at Miss Bacon with 
such force that the raconteur fainted. 18 

A few students became bitter about Miss Means's behavior toward 
both teachers and students. They suspected she enjoyed making girls 
cry. An outsider remarked, "She carries herself as if you were a bad 
odor," while one of her oldest Andover friends, Alice Buck, '57, shook 
her head and said, "I don't know why Emily acts the way she does 
since she came back." 19 Neither do we who look backward in time; 
yet one can surmise. Miss Means, essentially a private person, had a 
passion for order. She bore heavily her responsibility for keeping a 
various community in close array when the world outside offered so 
many unfamiliar alternatives to the old- Abbot and old-Andover tradi- 
tions within which she had grown to womanhood. Someone had to 
stand strong for the right, someone who still knew what right was. 
When she relaxed her guard, as at her summer island in Maine, or even 
at Abbot— when she encountered a bright, hardworking student like 
Mary Byers Smith who "would walk right up to the lion" and say her 
piece for the other day scholars or C.P. students 20 — she showed her 
sympathetic side and her marvelous, dry sense of humor. To a few of 
her students she became a lifelong friend, with whom she shared her 
wit, her literary interests, and her island in Maine. 21 Even those who 
did not like her found her "always interesting." Thev were stimulated 

4 4 


not only by her reverent teaching of Henry James, but by the "strain 
in the air": the three-way tension between Miss Means's almost fanatic 
defense of traditional behavior against "modernistic" incursions, their 
own modern aspirations, and the example their Principal presented of 
a resourceful individual who had created her own life plan. 22 

A school, of course, is much more than its principal. Miss Means's 
Abbot had inherited some fine teachers from Miss Watson, and she 
chose new teachers with scrupulous care. Foremost, perhaps, was Re- 
bekah Chickering, one of Miss Watson's last gifts to Abbot. Fresh from 
Bryn Mawr College, where she had excelled in literature, history, and 
basketball, she never staled during the entire thirty-nine years of her 
stay. She had come to teach the College English and Church History 
sections, but she was passionately interested in current events. This 
passion generated student extracurricular debates, then a current events 
elective; it stimulated discussion of complex foreign policy questions 
in the Modern European History course. A suffragist, she also chaired 
the Social Science Department of the November Club. She delighted 
in some of the modern novels that found no place on College Prepa- 
ratory reading lists. Throughout her life, her Bryn Mawr classmates 
and her Abbot students came to her for advice on what to read. 
Though seemingly shy at first, she was warm-hearted, quick with a 
joke, and marvelously absent-minded. Students loved to come upon her 
talking to herself in the library; at table they watched spellbound 
while she served meat from the platter, passed filled plates to the right, 
then received the plates from the left and unloaded the meat once 
more onto the platter, talking graciously all the time. For Miss Chick- 
ering herself, her dream world seems to have been an always ready 
source of self-renewal. She coached the basketball players as ably as 
the actors in Shakespeare plays. Miss Means had returned to Abbot 
ambitious to bring its history and French offerings up to the best of 
the McKeen years, for she felt Miss Watson, with her too-many-irons- 
in-the-fire, had let them slide. Miss Chickering would be the inspira- 
tion of a parade of younger history teachers for decades to come. In 
her hands even the dreaded senior Church History became an experi- 
ence to treasure; her keen scholarship and her B.A. degree made her a 
special model for the C.P. students. 23 

Miss Chickering was only one of several young college-trained teach- 
ers, women who had often overcome family objections and local sus- 
picion to win their education. They brought a sense of fun along with 
their skills. Barbara Moore Pease, 'n, initially found Latin alien and 
difficult. Latin teacher Olive Runner won her devotion first to teacher 
and then to subject by inviting her to read poetry aloud with her on 


FORTH AND BACK, I 8 8 5 - I 9 I 2 

rainy afternoons, and by "borrowing" tin trays from the dining room 
so the two could zoom screaming down the hill behind Abbot Hall 
when the snowcrust was right and the moon was full. Apparently, 
older teachers warmly welcomed the new: Nellie Mason was outward- 
ly severe in her inevitable black dress, but she was grateful for the 
younger teachers' help in radically improving the laboratory science 
program; round-faced Frau Schiefferdecker was as jolly and friendly 
outside of German class as she was firm within it (her favorite tray- 
sliding place was the orchard hill). "Kit" Kelsey might strike some as 
a feeble mathematics teacher, but she was kindness itself to new teach- 
ers, and they admired her energetic organization of geology field trips 
and other school events. 24 Complex and reluctant though it sometimes 
was, the process by which Abbot incorporated the new with the old 
had by now become fairly well systematized. The number of years 
teachers stayed at the school indicates growing academic continuity. 


Number of Teachers 

Number of Teachers 

Arriving during Abbot's 

Arriving during the 

Number of 

First Forty Years, 

Second Forty Years 

Years Tenure 





63 teachers 


2 5 

36 teachers 



8 teachers 



9 teachers 

*The five long-tenured teachers of the early period all arrived during the 
first McKeen decade, 1859-69, and included both McKeen sisters and Mr. 
Downs, a part-time teacher. 

The alumnae had also become a powerful force for institutional 
stability and growth. They had been contributing toward lecture or 
concert series and scholarships for years; now they endowed them. As 
soon as they had finished helping to build and furnish Draper Hall, 
they began a new building fund. After Miss McKeen's death, this be- 
came seed money for McKeen Memorial Hall to which they would 
add generously before its erection in 1904. The active Boston and New 
York Abbot clubs (founded in 1892 and 1898) supplemented the or- 
ganizational efforts of the Alumnae Association, ably run from An- 
dover by secretary-treasurer Agnes Park. This "tall and plain" daughter 
of Professor Park was "vigorously intellectual and staunch in devotion 
to people and causes." 25 She had long since declared her independence 


from all that was fossilized on Andover Hill, and she was "the main- 
spring" of Abbot's Alumnae Association for forty-two years. After 
1909 she had much help from Jane Carpenter, '92, B.A. Mt. Holyoke, 
M.A. Teachers College, Columbia, and Record Keeper Extraordinary. 
For Jane Carpenter, alumnae history was paid vocation and heart- 
whole avocation in one. It was Abbot's next door neighbor and new 
Trustee, Burton Flagg, who had the foresight to urge creation of the 
salaried alumnae post. Trustees and alumnae knew by now that they 
needed one another. 

By chance the first decade of the new century brought in an almost 
wholly new Board. Professors Park and Churchill both died in 1900, 
having served forty and twenty-one y ears respectively. Of twelve 
Trustees, only three of the older men spanned the new decade, among 
them the Reverend Professor John Phelps Taylor, D.D., Abbot's final 
link with the Theological Seminary, famous among alumnae for his 
profuse and garbled rhetoric (at one Commencement he prayed fer- 
vently that "these young girls would become streams of living water 
on their hearth fires"). 26 Mrs. John Harlow, one of the first two 
woman Trustees, and the aging Draper and Ripley stayed a few years 
into the century; but once they had departed, the group was fresh, 
attuned to modern business principles, aware of the great progress be- 
ing made by the private educational institutions that were Abbot's 
contemporaries and competitors. Colonel George Ripley had already 
laid away Draper's almost undecipherable account books and improved 
the Treasurer's bookkeeping and reporting system. The Trustees voted 
to move the securities from the secret compartment Draper had built 
into his chimney to a safety deposit box in Andover or Boston. 27 Rev- 
erend Daniel Merriman, Board President from 1900 to 191 2, encouraged 
Burton Flagg, then a young insurance executive, to polish Ripley's ac- 
counting method to a sheen that would last throughout Flagg's fifty- 
nine-year term as Treasurer. Finally, Mary Donald Churchill, '63, Pro- 
fessor Churchill's widow, took to her Trustee duties (they were to 
last three decades) with an energy and a forward look which belied 
her years. Together, Trustees, alumnae, and Principal set out to com- 
plete the buildings Abbot seemed to need for its ideal enrollment, 
about no by Miss Means's reckoning. 


Planning for a new classroom building had already begun. In the 
spring of her first year, Miss Watson had received $200 from the stu- 

I90 FORTH AND BACK, I 8 8 5- I 9 I 2 

dents for such a hall, and Seniors had been given permission to appeal 
for more funds to the Boston Abbot Club. Throughout the Watson 
years, students and alumnae worked at the project, holding benefits 
and festivals. After Miss McKeen's death in 1898, an active memorial 
campaign completed the raising of $24,000 to start the building; this 
included the proceeds of three Senior plays and a dramatic entertain- 
ment jointly presented by faculty members from Abbot, Phillips, the 
Theological Seminary, and several Phillips alumnae. Warren Draper 
offered $7,500 more on condition the building be completed by Ab- 
bot's seventy- fifth anniversary, 28 and Miss Means herself lent $10,000 
so that construction could be started in time to meet Draper's stipu- 
lations. Shortly after the ground breaking, George G. Davis donated a 
further $10,000 in honor of his Trustee father to build on an assembly 
hall-gymnasium. The Abbot faculty produced a play to raise money 
for a stage curtain. Still more donors gave furniture; to their earlier 
gifts of plaster casts, Reverend and Mrs. Merriman added a cast of the 
Parthenon frieze fully as fine as the one at the Bryn Mawr School, 
which seems to have begun this fashion. 

McKeen Hall was ready for use in the fall of 1904, and the attached 
"Davis Hall" was finished in time for a December lecture by Booker 
T. Washington. All Andover was invited, and most of Andover came, 
Miss Kelsey reports. Abbot stretched its limbs and moved equipment 
from the old academy building; shortly afterward, alumnae gifts and 
bequests made it possible to refurbish Abbot Hall's first two floors for 
expanded science laboratories, with advice on design from Trustee- 
chemist John Alden. 

In the Abbot Hall renovations, as in other building projects, Miss 
Means's alumnae connections were proving invaluable. With a $40,000 
bequest from Esther Smith Byers, '56, an entire are gallery was built 
against the east wall of Abbot Hall to house the collection that John 
and Esther Byers had gathered in their New York home. Miss Means 
had given practical counsel in the design of all the new construction, 
but this project especially intrigued her. The fireproof second floor 
invited other art donations, and the workrooms and sculpture exhibi- 
tion hall on the first floor added valuable space for the art program, 
which used the new John-Esther gallery constantly. The public was 
invited in every Saturday. v 

Harvard's President Eliot spoke at the dedication of the John-Esther 
Gallery, addressing his audience on the "higher education" of girls 
and young women with more humility than he had displayed in the 
Wellesley speech that had so annoyed M. Carey Thomas. He confessed 
that he was "singularly uninformed about the education of girls"; al- 


though he described the woman's body and "the woman's heart" as 
having "larger elements of delicacy, tenderness, and deftness" than the 
man's, he went on to defend training in self-control, courage, and in- 
tellectual and aesthetic excellence as appropriate both to young men 
and young women. "The home which [woman] creates, illumines and 
blesses" benefits as much from this education as does the work of the 
world which men must do. 29 It was a welcome concession, however 
timid, from the nation's chief spokesman for liberal education, and 
Abbot was grateful. 

Across from Abbot Hall on School Street, the old Judge Morton 
House also came into Abbot's hands, bought by gifts from Mrs. Draper 
and four others. Doubtless its acquisition was a relief to the Abbot 
administration, which had long bridled at Phillips student-boarders 
who trained their binoculars on Smith or Draper Hall, and later, at the 
number of boys the large Morton family contained. John Phelps 
Taylor contributed $5000 to outbid "the menace" on another house 
adjacent to Abbot: the competitor was threatening to convert it to 
apartments. "Miss Means is aghast at the prospect," he wrote Mrs. 
Draper, from whom he subtly requested a contribution: 

Instead of a home for a quiet family . . . we should have the 
blotch of a more extended tenement-district with the battering 
ram of its head fronting the fairest temple of knowledge in An- 
dover. Now in this peril is an opportunity . . . 30 

Finally, Smith Hall, empty of students since 1 897, was demolished, too 
outdated by Draper Hall's superior heating and lighting arrangements 
for anyone but alumnae to mourn its loss. Abbot was above such 
primitive accommodations now; a clientele paying $500 per daughter 
cared not at all for those gas lamps and those 12' X 12' rooms which 
had seemed splendid to so many pairs of girls in simpler times. The 
empty site stood waiting for an infirmary to replace the makeshift 
arrangements in Draper Hall— a few rooms on the top floor separated 
from the rest by a sheet soaked in carbolic acid. So confident were the 
Trustees that donors for an infirmary would materialize that they had 
begun weaving plans in their heads well before Miss Means's retire- 
ment. For there was money about, especially in that upper fifth of 
the turn-of-the-century population that owned most of the nation's 
wealth. The building of Draper Hall had inspired a confidence in 
Abbot's future— a confidence mere people do not generate— and it was 
soon vindicated by the major building additions and renovations of the 
Means era. Given this enormous outlay for real estate, it is surprising to 
read enrollment and budget figures for the first five years of Miss 

192 FORTH AND BACK , 1885-IQI2 

Means's tenure. Enrollment dropped steadily after Miss Watson left, 
to a low of seventy-seven in 1903-04, the year McKeen Hall was con- 
structed, before leveling off at about 100 after 1907. Neither the di- 
minished student roster nor the "shortages" of $5,000 to $7,000 each 
year apparently shook the faith of Principal or Trustees. 31 People might 
come and go; those bulky brick sentinels with their fashionably ap- 
pointed insides assured the world that Abbot Academy would endure. 

Beyond Bricks 

Meanwhile, within and around the buildings, student life continued. 
Almost imperceptibly, it had grown more Abbot-centered since Miss 
McKeen's retirement. Many students still came as much for Andover 
as for Abbot— an Andover "lovely in trees, fine architecture and old 
homes and gardens," remembers Ruth Newcomb. Members of the 
Abbot Christian Association might still go to a Theological Seminary 
lecture now and then; forty or fifty students would enjoy the annual 
May Day Breakfast at Town Hall; but the sharing grew less each year. 
The Theological Seminary's extraordinary power over regional— and 
national— cultural life was now much dimmed by secular forces. The 
number of theologues had dwindled by two thirds since the heresy 
trial— to the point where there were more professors than Seniors. 32 
Abbot day-student enrollment dropped again under Miss Means. Not 
since the McKeens arrived had this "school-home" equipped for board- 
ers paid much attention to day scholars (and if behavior follows the 
dollar, perhaps this is no wonder, since they paid only one fifth of the 
boarders' total fee). Now they were "the scum of the earth," says 
a day scholar who graduated in 1904. Even the brightest and most 
active rarely led school organizations, belonged to many clubs, or took 
part in informal recreation-day activities. It was not until Mary Byers 
Smith reminded Miss Means that the day scholars had to complete 
their bag lunches by wiping their hands on their slips that towels ap- 
peared in the day scholars' basement dressing room. 

This was a chicken-egg affair. Students needed less of "down-town" 
because their Academy created more diversion. Partly as a result of 
student pressure, organized sports played an ever greater role in school 
life. Girls expected to be more active than their mothers had been. 
Running sports were now popular in women's colleges; tennis and 
bicycling had killed no one at Abbot. Despite the insistence of many 
male physicians that menstruating girls were weak and vulnerable to 
disease (the eminent Dr. John Thornton said that "they should adjust 



28. A Grecian phase, circa 1900: "Night and the Fates" 

194 FORTH AND BACK, I 8 8 5 — I 9 I 2 

themselves to the law of nature and lie fallow about a quarter of the 
time"), 33 "women's delicacy" was gradually going out of date. On 
two afternoons a week in 1 898-99 most of Abbot cheered at the base- 
ball contests between three rotating teams. The same year, four basket- 
ball teams were organized under Rebekah Chickering's enthusiastic di- 
rection. Horrified when she came to find the contenders tripping over 
their long skirts, she won them the right to wear black stockings and 
bloomers (to be sure, the bloomers were made with yards and yards 
of cloth). Academic Seniors competed heartily with the Senior-Mid 
(eleventh grade) teams that spring at Abbot's first Field Day, which 
was much enlivened by a group of Phillips boys who crept into the 
Grove and formed a waiting block just beyond the finish tape: the 
Abbot racers who broke the tape flung themselves willy-nilly into 
many open arms. Young faculty brought field hockey from the colleges 
by 1902, and soon Abbot was playing Bradford in both hockey and 
baseball. Miss Means's anticollege bias extended to the athletic field: 
the C.P. baseball nine was never allowed to play in outside games or 
on Field Day. Fortunately, Field Day was more than baseball. Within 
a few years it had become an all-school festival, with the two upper 
classes striving to outdo each other in their costumes, songs, and antics 
in an atmosphere of general jubilation that gave a special shine to the 
games, the track and field contests, and the tennis matches on the new 
dirt courts. The growing emphasis on athletics at Abbot reflected a 
general trend toward secondary and college students' absorption in 
school as a community-in-itself. Discouraged by labor unions and so- 
cial pressures from taking jobs, youth made the extracurriculum "a 
substitute for attendance at comparable activities in the world out- 
side." 34 Sports helped make Abbot more of a school-world than the 
school-home it had been since 1854. 

No one was obliged to be sporty, however; even Phillips up the Hill 
had no required athletics until 1906. There were also walking and 
croquet clubs, mandolin and glee clubs. There was Odeon, a literary 
society where students could read aloud and discuss the contemporary 
plays or novels that were excluded from English classes— and even 
from library shelves— in favor of Tennyson and Longfellow. Finally, 
there were those clubbiest of clubs, the three sororities. Miss Means 
had given official blessing to these once secret societies when she ar- 
rived, feeling they would contribute more to Abbot as recognized 
groups, however exclusive (there were eight to ten members in each 
sorority, usually the "big wheels" of the school). In turn, each sorority 
made her an honorary member. The sisters also sponsored certain re- 
ceptions or fund-raising events during the year, and enjoyed looking 



29. The Senior Nine, 1902. 

down their noses at the thirty or forty Seniors and Senior-Mids who 
were not members. 

The Abbot sorority girls were not alone: such groups were char- 
acteristic of secondary schools and colleges of the time, in spite of the 
opposition of the National Education Association, which had judged 
them "Undemocratic . . . and subversive of discipline." 35 Phillips 
Academy's example in this area— as in organized sports— was stimu- 
lating, sometimes pleasantly intrusive. The captain of the track team, 
in love with a certain "Becca" (and she with him), ordered one of his 
fraternity's new initiates to send her some flowers. The youngster 
thought it would be funnier to send her a funeral wreath. It arrived 
in Miss Means's rooms, stiff with lacquer and reeking of embalming 
fluid, and Becca, summoned, arrived soon afterward. Miss Means stood 
nose uplifted, asking "What does this mean?" The girl didn't know, 
but promising to discuss it later, she staggered up to her room with it 
and (naturally) hung it out the window so the fast-gathering Phil- 
lipians could see it. The corridor teacher, alarmed, came in and threw 

196 FORTH AND BACK, 1885-1912 

a sheet over it, which made it all the easier to spot from the Hill. 
Enough was enough. Principal ordered girl and wreath back to her 
room, and told her to throw it in the fire. The lacquered flowers ex- 
ploded into flames when they hit the coals, setting fire to the chimney 
so that the fire department had to come and put it out. By the time 
the fire engine was well into its work, long lines of Phillips boys were 
snake dancing on the Circle, jumping hoses and singing, and every girl 
at Abbot was hanging out the Draper Hall windows. 36 

The sororities added to the cliquishness typical of all girls' schools. 
New girls like Mildred Bryant Kussmaul, '13, longed to join, but the 
sorority women refused to come to her creamed-chicken room supper. 
C.P. and day scholars were rarely invited in. The C.P. girls were used 
to this, of course; if they were allowed in the Senior Shakespeare play 
at all, it was usually as servants or outlaws. 37 "To be a College Senior, 
was to be almost a worm," remarked one of them much later. 38 Part of 
this snubbery was a function of age. Most C.P.'s were one to two 
years younger than the Academic Seniors, who were now twenty 
years old, on the average, at graduation; this was one reason why Miss 
Watson had established separate courses for C.P. students. They had 
their own class officers, their own class flower, their own Senior ban- 
quet. Apparently they were thought essential to the Courant Board, 
however. Courant applauded the first awarding of diplomas to C.P. 
Seniors in 1904, noting that "they also have worked earnestly for their 
standing." 39 The editors invited alumna college freshmen to describe 
Bryn Mawr or Mt. Holyoke for present students in letters-to-the- 
editors. The magazine generally served as C.P. advocate so far as pos- 
sible, given the Means era publication code, which seems to have ruled 
out all serious criticism of the school itself and reduced the editors to 
preaching at their peers for their overdone hair styles, their raucous 
laughs, their floppy ribbons, or their flabby handshakes. 

No difference between day scholar and boarder could be discerned 
in students' dress, which was uniformly ridiculous, as Mary Byers 
Smith recalled in a speech to alumnae on Abbot's Centennial: 

Our skirts trailed on the ground. Our boned collars dug into our 
necks. The wearer of a Ferris waist was too conspicuous. Any- 
one's pompadour might have concealed a pair of stockings, and a 
really stylish pair of gloves besides, and an orange. Can't some 
of you old ladies feel your hair tugging at its roots as you re- 
member tacking across the street in a gale of wind, with an im- 
mense picture hat pinned on the back of your head? 

Many of the entertainments of this time were equally sumptuous. Ab- 


bot boarders continued to enjoy the traditional festive occasions, and 
added a few new ones. At "corridor parties" one corridor hosted the 
whole school costumed according to its chosen theme— Mother Goose 
characters, or cupids (for Valentine's Day), or babies. Hallowe'en was 
now a huge costume dinner party. Thanksgiving for all Abbot and 
Phillips boarders left behind was a jolly, informal reception at the 
house of Phillips' new Principal, Alfred E. Stearns, who had assumed 
his position after Bancroft's untimely death in iqoi with a serious- 
ness one would hardly have thought could belong to the waggish Com- 
mencement usher of 1890. Frau SchiefTerdecker made two young Ger- 
man teachers from Phillips her frequent guests at the German table, 
and even arranged a few joint German entertainments for audiences 
from both schools. The Phillips Senior prom was now an annual 
event. Abbot held its first prom soon after Davis Hall was opened. 
One could now go (chaperoned) on a legal Phillips- Abbot hay ride, 
or (unchaperoned) with an Abbot friend to Boston, perhaps to take 
one's turn with the two symphony tickets Miss Means used to reserve. 

Phillips-Abbot cooperation had its somber side. Those who attended 
the memorial service for Warren Draper in 1905 remember the singing 
of the joint Abbot-Phillips-Theological Seminary Choir as the most 
poignant moment in the ceremony. 40 The chapel services up and down 
the Hill occasionally sounded common themes. When Helen Abbott 
and her roommate discovered the joys of dropping light bulbs onto 
the Draper Hall driveway from their third floor window, both Miss 
Means and the Phillips minister on the Hilltop prayed for them the 
following Sunday, Miss Means begging God's forgiveness for Helen's 
"temporary aberration of the mind." 41 

As of old, what adults had not arranged was often most memorable. 
Day scholars were a marvelous resource here: Miss Means trusted the 
Thomson family on Central Street, and it was a safe place to go to 
meet a Phillips boy. Officially "we weren't allowed to see the boys," 
Miss Smith remembers, "but we knew them." They managed to find 
each other in spite of limits carefully set for girls' walks or for social- 
izing time following Mr. Stearns's new Sunday Vesper services or the 
occasional Phillips-Abbot choral service. One Phillips student asked his 
girl to go canoeing on the Shawsheen; unfortunately they passed under 
the railroad bridge just as Miss Means was returning from Boston on 
the 5:14. The girl was given a blistering lecture that very evening. A 
Phillips boy was dismissed for riding to Lawrence with an Abbot 
Senior, another for walking with his girl during church time. 42 Miss 
Means expelled an Abbot girl just about to graduate for meeting a 
theologue behind one of the Hilltop buildings. 43 Yet for each tryst 

I98 FORTH AND BACK, 1885-I912 

confounded, hundreds were held in peace down by the old Andover- 
Wilmington railroad bed, or out in the country when you had been 
"punging"— hitching a secret ride on the back runners of a delivery 
sleigh, traveling sometimes for miles in the hope that you could beg 
a ride back, but not too soon. The students were marched to church in 
pairs, a teacher walking watchful at the end of the line, but no one 
could stop the younger Cads from taunting them on their way: 

There she goes 
There she goes 
All dressed up in Sunday clothes! 

Who knows 
Who knows 
What she's got on for underclothes? 44 

Nor were all of the "corridor stunts" approved by the school. The 
Class of 1900 described in Abbot's first published Yearbook the early 
months of its organization as a class: 

'99 soon found that her younger sister was not to be imposed 
upon, and began to respect the spirit which resented our being 
tied into our rooms, considering herself fortunate to escape the 
pitcher of water which [unluckily] fell upon one higher in 

The higher authority did not record her reaction to the water. 

One of the C.P. students, Marion Brown, 'n, kept a scrapbook rec- 
ord of her five years at Abbot which shows how much fun— legal and 
illegal— the Academy could afford a lively girl. 45 Her father's darling, 
Marion seems to have thought she could do no wrong. 46 "She's a great 
favorite with Emily Means," her friends jibed, recounting the number 
of "summons" she received each month. Miss Means had her hands full 
persuading Marion's indulgent family (altogether too close in Law- 
rence) to keep her from going to the vaudeville theatre every Wednes- 
day— and if she must go, to provide proper chaperonage for their 
boarder-daughter. 47 The parents did comply, but Marion felt free to 
speak her mind about it afterward: 

"Don't go to the theatre without a chap'ne" Did we? well I 
should say not. She looks as though she were playing hookey 
from a grave yard and she sings as though her feet hurt her. 48 

Marion was a fair scholar at first, a fine one by graduation. She must 
have done some studying, for she has left us her Senior-Mid schedule. 


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200 FORTH AND BACK, I 8 8 5 — I 9 I 2 

Much of her energy, however, went into extracurricular enthusiasms. 
She kept letters from her boy and men friends (her older brother 
Needham apparently introduced her to this one of many, a military 
academy student); 

I know how it is to feel like raising H — , for we feel that way 
often here. [5 October 1906] 

Darling, as I sat here all alone trying to study . . . [undated] 

I can even now see your hair glittering in the gas light . . . 
[21 January 1907I 

From her girl friends: 

How I missed you tonight at dinner! . . . Would that you and I 
could always sit by each other. Yes dear I care a lot for you, tell 
me dear that you care just a little for me? Dearest my eyes were 
so blinded with tears [at dinner time] that I did not hear Miss 
Means speak to me, dearest I cannot stand many such things— she 
looked at me and in the coldest way asked if I would have 
more meat. . . . 

(On the envelope M.B. has written "Put on your rubbers. You will 
need them to go through this slush.") 49 

Even from her kid brother (and the family dog). [15 January 1907] 

My Dear Sister How are you getting along up to school Have 
you good manners up to school . . . Do you know My Mother 
has bought an Automobile . . . Do the boys have Double Runners 
up to school? Good Bye Write 

I send Buster's Dog Kisses X X X X 
From your Dear Brother Joseph C. Brown 

The daily goofiness of younger Abbot students produced a docu- 
ment we can only hope Miss Means never saw: 

We therefore agree to a bet that if Marion keeps on the under- 
clothing she has on this day, November twelfth nineteen hundred 
and six until the first day of May nineteen hundred and seven, 
I will owe her a bag of Campions potato chips which will be 
bought at the price of ten cents. 


Helen Chaffee 
I swear to keep this bet 

Marion Brown 


Marion yawned at some of the entertainment Abbot provided. 
About the Faculty Reception of 1906 for Andover townspeople, she 
wrote, "No one under forty invited. Nobody under sixty came." But 
Phillips events were next to vaudeville among her pleasures. She en- 
joyed P.A. intramural games, P.A.-Exeter games, P.A. football heroes— 
and simply P.A. Though a rendezvous took some forethought, Marion 
and one J. Wallace Scott arranged them with ease through the under- 
ground mail: 50 

Miss Marion Brown [from J. Wallace Scott, 21 January 1907] 

Kindness of Miss Cole 
My friend Mr. Tree would like to know if it will be convenient 
for you and your delightful friend to meet us on Wednesday 
afternoon say about 3:30. Will you kindly answer and state the 
place as I do not know where it would be safe. 

Miss Marion Brown [from JWS] 

Kindness of Miss Lee 
My dear Marion. 

That letter of yours was pretty strong for the first one. I had to 
hold Tree in a chair . . . Do you really want to meet us? We do. 
We have been thinking it over and we think that down by the 
railroad bridge would be the safest. There is nothing like being 
too safe when Miss Means is in existence . . . Did you get Doc's 
note for Gladys that other crazy acting girl? 

Yours forever lovingly, JWS 

So did "Peaches and Pinkie," whoever they may have been: 

Come on down to the Grove. 
What do you care if EM is looking? 

The task of bringing up such as Marion Brown to polite society and 
scholarly accomplishment seems almost beyond possibility, but this 
task Abbot struggled with anyway, year after year. And Marion her- 
self went on to Wellesley, later earning her Master's degree at Boston 
University and studying at the University of Toulouse, Columbia, and 
Harvard. Despite her early loves, she never married. Instead she taught 
French and Latin nearly all her life in both college and secondary 
school, serving briefly as Preceptress of Montpelier Seminary in Ver- 
mont and for many years as Dean of Girls and head of the Language 
Department at Lawrence High School next door to Andover. Miss 
Means would have been happy to know that Dean Brown shared her 
talent for dealing with the mischevious and the difficult. One Law- 

202 FORTH AND BACK, I 8 8 5 - I 9 I 2 

rence graduate remembers her well: "Very nice she was— a stern hand 
with plenty of humor and kindness." 55 

By the spring of 1909, Emily Means felt she must have rest. The 
Trustees hoped a year away with half-salary would restore her. Leav- 
ing Abbot in Miss Kelsey's care, she went first to her Maine retreat, 
then to her old haunts in Europe. She did return to Abbot for the year 
1910-11, but resigned permanently after that, saying that there were 
many activities of her own she wished to undertake. When she wrote 
back to her Abbot friends of the thrill of camping under the stars on 
the Libyan desert and told them her intricate plans for a new house on 
her island, they knew she had done the right thing. 

Katherine Kelsey was a competent interim head. True, she so often 
met student initiatives with the calm rejoinder, "it never has been 
done" and their protests with "it always has been done" that girls 
found themselves nostalgic for Miss Means' brusk reasons. But Miss 
Kelsey eventually proved responsive. Rules had multiplied once again 
under Miss Means: Do not be seen buttoning your gloves while leaving 
your room; stay in your room after 8:00 whether studying or not; 
cover your elbows at dinner time. If you weren't wearing a long- 
sleeved dress, you were handed a pair of elbow cuffs to wear in the 
dining room. "We were treated like children, and we acted according- 
ly," writes Barbara Moore Pease, 'n, recalling the guilty fun she and 
her roommate enjoyed filling their corridor teacher's water pitcher 
with June bugs or bullheads, depending on the season. With her teach- 
ing colleagues, Miss Kelsey instituted a Student Council of elected 
representatives, whose purpose, said the Courant editors, was "to pre- 
vent . . . any injury to the reputation of the school, and at the same 
time to make a closer sympathy and unity between the faculty and 
the girls." 52 An echo of the enthusiasm for student government in 
many women's colleges, this was nothing like the Bryn Mawr Ex- 
ecutive Committee, which was directly responsible to the trustees for 
all student behavior and whose recommendations for dismissal were 
"equivalent to a sentence." 53 But it was a beginning. 

The Trustees went about the search for a new principal with great 
deliberation. They were seeking a Lady, for Emily Means was a 
powerful after-image in their minds, but they also wanted a person of 
recognized academic experience who would strengthen the College 
Preparatory course, for it had not thrived under Miss Means's half- 
hearted guidance. Seemingly, the Lady came first. Miriam Titcomb, a 
highly gifted teacher and administrator who knew Abbot well (she 
taught mathematics there from 1906 to 1908) seems not to have mea- 


sured up to the selection committee's standards for dress and bearing, 
yet went on to become principal of the prestigious Bancroft School in 
Worcester and to found the Hillsdale School in Cincinnati. The Trust- 
ees heard about a Bertha Bailey, B.S. Wellesley, who was coprincipal 
and co-owner of the new Taconic School in Connecticut. This posi- 
tion—not unlike Asa Farwell's at the early Abbot— demanded business 
sense as well as academic leadership, and Taconic was doing well. Here 
was a woman of "good inheritance and fine breeding" 54 who had— 
so it seemed— taught almost everything (science, mathematics, and 
history from the Greeks to the present) almost everywhere in the 
Northeast. She had done voluntary social work among Bohemian im- 
migrants in Cleveland and the West Side poor in New York City. 
What was she like as a person? Trustee Markham Stackpole asked her 
present and former colleagues. "Daughter of a Presbyterian clergy- 
man," "a lady of ideas and ideals," they answered. 55 "A woman of 
remarkable ability and of beautiful character," wrote the wife of her 
first employer. 56 "Vigorous," wrote Taconic again when questioned 
more closely (could Stackpole have been worried about the implica- 
tions for Miss Bailey's health of her size and weight?), "exceedingly 
efficient" in administration and discipline, "something of a martinette 
. . . she is very firm." She was hired. 

Miss Bailey visited Abbot and was pleased to find herself in agree- 
ment with the "progressive spirit" of the Trustees. She accepted the 
offered salary of $2000, "for the present. Should my value to the 
school increase, as I trust it may, I am sure the Trustees would recog- 
nize the fact." 57 A business sense indeed! 

It was Bertha Bailey's suggestion that an inauguration be held. On 
19 October 191 2 the whole school gathered together with neighbors 
and faraway friends, former faculty and Trustees, and a procession of 
Old Scholars from 1845 on. A greeting was read from Miss Mary 
Cornelius, '36, who had entered Abbot on its opening day in 1829. 
Bands of yellow ribbon distinguished the present students whose 
mothers, aunts, grandmothers, great-aunts or great-grandmothers had 
been Abbot girls before them. It was a grand occasion. It was, in fact, 
the first grand Abbot occasion on which women made major speeches: 
Wellesley's President Pendleton and Bradford's Principal Knott elo- 
quently greeted their new colleague. The tone of Miss Bailey's own 
speech made clear to the skeptics that the gathering was a celebration 
of Abbot Academy far more than of Bertha Bailey. Again, the leader 
of a new era set herself firmly and deliberately upon an old foundation. 


Against the Tide, 1912-1954 

During the Means years, Abbot had walked backward into the future. 
With the change in administration, it was time to take stock, a task for 
which Bertha Bailey, outsider, was well qualified. 

Times had changed; they kept on changing. High school enrollment 
throughout the country had multiplied: nearly 60 percent of all young 
people 14 to 17 years of age were in school by 191 2, compared with 
8 percent in 1890. Increasingly a high school diploma or bachelor's 
degree was the prerequisite for skilled or professional occupations. The 
new Progressive educators were making powerful efforts to expand 
the schools beyond "mental discipline" in ways that truly met the vo- 
cational and personal needs of youth in an industrializing society, now 
that the educative influences of the old agrarian community had been 
so much weakened. As a contemporary social theorist put it, "The 
modern community is not real enough, not sufficiently organized to 
provide the old time social integrations as a matter of course." 1 The 
Church, the Grange, the informal apprenticeships under one's farmer 
or farm-wife mother or under a local master craftsman— these were 
either unavailable or unappealing. John Dewey proposed that educa- 
tors reject the "blatantly aristocratic" view of culture too common in 
college preparatory high schools, and instead create "embryonic com- 
munities" which would foster social responsibility and experienced per- 
sonal competence within a protective, democratic setting. 2 The junior 
college movement was raising an infant cry for attention, its propo- 
nents hoping to persuade a larger proportion of eighteen-year-olds to 
stay in secondary school or come to college for two years of advanced 
or vocational training. 

Abbot Academy had to ask again the question often before asked 
and answered: what special benefits could Abbot offer to young 
women in this changing educational world? The Academy was now 
competing against the public high schools of the whole country in- 
stead of little Punchard High of Andover, to say nothing of the 
women's colleges, which were still the measure of the older students' 
Academic Course. Board and tuition together were $600; they would 

208 AGAINST THE TIDE, 1912-1954 

gradually rise to $1400 by 1926, an escalation that would outpace the 
cost of living by 33 percent. 3 

On the other hand, Abbot had its advantages. The school had 
nearly a century of experience in an academic program similar to that 
which President Eliot still advocated for all high schools, though with 
ever less success. College entrants found that their English, history, and 
language work at Abbot had given them superior training for college, 
even though the same could not be said for mathematics or science. A 
few Academic Course graduates who changed their minds about col- 
lege gained admission to the second or third year in reputable univer- 
sities. More important, the whole nation was now experiencing the 
"unrest of women," those social growing pains that had so perturbed 
Miss Means. Public high school teachers "complain [ed] of the distrac- 
tions of parties, theatres, bazaars, and amusements generally, which 
exhaust the strength of the girls in particular," a visiting British school- 
mistress observed. 4 Especially after the War, worried adults thought 
they saw the automobile, the radio, and the moving pictures destroying 
traditional definitions and limitations in favor of a plastic world within 
which youth wandered, posing and strutting to hide its confusion. 5 An 
orderly, close-knit boarding school was one solution. 

Finally, with rapid growth, a public secondary school bureaucracy 
(largely male) was enforcing arbitrary departmental divisions, and 
weakening what authority teachers had had over their large classes by 
demanding entire submissiveness to system-wide curricula. What in- 
fluence teachers had left was often exercised in desperate attempts to 
maintain appearances ("How can you learn anything with your knees 
and toes out of order?!" barked one teacher to a cowed pupil), 6 while 
Abbot teachers specialized in authority as of old, yet continued to 
offer electives to almost any group larger than two which asked for 
them. Faced with an eager clutch of advanced French students, for 
example, two teachers might assign he Chanson de Roland to coincide 
with a study of fourteenth-century art through museum trips and 
studio work. 7 The student-teacher ratio was about 10:1 when Bertha 
Bailey arrived, better even than Phillips Academy's at 17 to 1. 

Abbot also had snob appeal. To be sure the Academy was more like- 
ly to interest the intellectual elite than the purely "social" families, but 
day scholar alumna Eleanor Thomson Castle, '98, remembers how 
much more "classy" Abbot seemed to her "set" than the perfectly 
good Andover public high school. The Hill intellectuals and all who 
admired them "were entirely separate from the man who owned the 
grocery store." 8 Along with the still-dignified town of Andover, Ab- 
bot offered an escape from "the great mass of people," rich and poor, 

AGAINST THE TIDE, 1912-1954 209 

with their "identical mental life," and from the typical American's 
"disdain of delicacy," his love of "enormities, giganticism, excess." 9 
The more young Americans attended public high school, the more 
distinctive an Abbot education became. 

Abbot was resolved upon distinction, then. There would be no com- 
promises with a society that seemed increasingly bent on self-indul- 
gence, increasingly obsessed with a mass youth "culture" born in the 
colleges and popularized by the advertisers of all material goods de- 
signed to sustain it. Though students might chafe at Victorian restric- 
tions, enough parents applauded Abbot's stance to keep the school 
filled throughout the decade of the twenties. The early thirties were 
another matter. The tide that then threatened to engulf Abbot Acade- 
my brought wave after wave of financial disaster. It would take more 
than moral certainty to keep from going under. 

The Ladies Stand Fast 

You are Abbot . . . 
letter from a parent to Bertha Bailey, 19 14 

Everything about the young . . . threatened the traditionalist 

Paula S. Fass, 1977 

The Trustees hoped Bertha Bailey would carry forward the best of 
Abbot's traditions, adding her own strengths to those of the school. As 
if to underline the Board's commitment, the school's loving neighbor 
Irene Rowley Draper, now in her eighties, welcomed Miss Bailey as 
warmly as she had Miss Watson and Miss Means, with a present for 
the McKeen Rooms of a grandfather clock and a promise of close 
friendship. 1 This promise was soon fulfilled, as were many others in 
the Bailey era. Indeed, Miss Bailey during her 23 years at Abbot com- 
bined in her own way the high social standards of Emily Means, the 
devotion to college preparation of Laura Watson and the missionary 
zeal of Philena McKeen. Her Abbot was in many respects the old 
Abbot, only more so. 

Bertha Bailey herself was more so in several ways. Her ample figure 
soon made her Big Bertha to almost everyone out of earshot. It was a 
nickname used as much in affection as in fun: no alumna whom she 
ever either disciplined or embraced forgot her bosom, which shook 
with anger at blatant offenders as impressively as it offered comfort to 
the distressed or welcome to returning alumnae. She had left her co- 
principalship at Taconic School partly because Taconic was, as she put 
it, "not big enough for two." 2 She wanted, needed, a larger stage on 
which to exercise her capacity for usefulness. Schooled by her father's 
example, she was a "splendid speaker," 3 but she spoke and preached as 
a true missionary: to uplift her audience, not herself. Far from being 
self-aggrandizing, 4 she was rather shy, especially with men, who often 
took her grim formality for disdain. Her warmth and generosity only 
emerged with friends she knew well, or with students she could trust. 

It was not easy for the students who most admired Miss Means to 
accept her successor. Mary Byers Smith remembers that Miss Bailey 


seemed "pillowy, soft" by comparison when she first met her, and 
thought it "quite a comedown" that her books (all in English, some 
unread) filled only a third of the shelves Miss Means had required. 
Though Miss Bailey later extended the school's hospitality whenever 
Miss Smith returned to visit or help, the distance remained. One cor- 
respondent wrote Trustee Stackpole that Bertha Bailey stood "for high 
and noble things," but, in fairness, added a short list of her "failings": 
"she is apt to be better in handling a group of girls than in dealing 
with one alone." 5 She could hardly have been called "soft" with indi- 
vidual students who had transgressed. Mildred Bryant Kussmaul, '13, 
remembers— and still resents— being summoned to her office, set down 
under a strong light, and interrogated. "Bertha B., she shined that light 
on me. She was watching my face all the time, trying to look inside 
my conscience." Early students thought she had an "all-seeing eye," 6 
which was good or distressing, depending on how you were behaving. 
Indeed, Miss Bailey herself underlined this impression with a well- 
remembered Chapel talk on the text "As he thinketh in his heart, so is 
he" (Proverbs 23:7). 

The most secret and private thoughts of each one of us work 
out day by day to the light. They show in our faces, they speak 
in our words ... we are what they have made us. . . . What is 
in your mind when you are alone? Do you think it does not 
matter? 7 

Though she relaxed a bit with time, "growing in her job," as Mabel 
Bacon Ripley put it, Abbot never knew a more thorough enforcer of 
its many rules than Bertha Bailey. 8 

Miss Bailey had attended Wellesley in its first decade, when college 
students were pioneers and Wellesley in particular impressed such 
searching critics as M. Carey Thomas with its all-female faculty and its 
efficient use of small means. 9 Thoroughly committed to college educa- 
tion for women, Bertha Bailey nevertheless respected Trustee and 
alumna support of the Academic Course. Her first catalogue (191 3) 
described it with pardonable pride (and perhaps some exaggeration) 
as the equivalent of the first two years of college. 

In 192 1, the Trustees charged a faculty committee to study the 
desirability of Abbot's concentrating its resources on one course of 
study instead of two. The group decided "after considerable discus- 
sion" that it was "distinctly advantageous" to keep both the Academic 
and the College Preparatory departments. "Each contributes directly 
to the success of the other," they concluded, the Academic Course 
offering a greater variety of subjects and the C.P. course keeping 


AGAINST THE TIDE, I 9 I 2 — I 9 5 4 

50. Bertha Bailey, photograph jrom 1913 Class Book. 

scholastic standards high. 10 There was no danger of teachers' energies 
being spread too thin; students shared most classes anyway in the first 
three years, and there were so many candidates for the final two years' 
classes that the sections would never be too small for efficient teaching. 
Until the early thirties, the C.P. and Academic group were quite even- 
ly balanced in numbers if not in academic ability. (Although there 
were a few very able Academic students, nearly all of the 50 highest 
scorers on the 192 1 IQ tests were C.P. students.) 11 Alumnae from each 
still insist that theirs was the superior course of study. There is no 
doubt that Academic students immeasurably enriched the culture of 
the school with their varied interests and talents. And just as Miss 
Watson had predicted, the College course attracted new families to 
Abbot, once Abbot's principal was championing it again. Enrollment 


climbed steadily from the 95 a year average of the Means era; once the 
postwar depression had passed, it reached and exceeded the level of the 
Watson years, peaking at 189 in 1927. Money-conscious Trustees might 
have shared a bit of Bertha Bailey's gratitude to her minister father, 
who taught her, she said, "to see, to think, to help myself, and never 
to sav 'I can't.' " 12 

War Time 

Not two years after Miss Bailey's arrival, war broke out in Europe. 
Her leadership during the next five years set the tone for her whole 
administration. In a sense, the western world's tragedy was Andover 
Hill's tonic: the missionary spirit that had sustained all three Hill in- 
stitutions during the nineteenth century was reborn as Christian patri- 
otism at both Abbot and Phillips academies. 

To Bertha Bailey teaching at any time was "an expression of love of 
country, of desire to serve humanity." 13 From the Davis Hall pulpit at 
Christmas Vespers, 19 14, she saw in this "colossal struggle . . . this 
agony and suffering and woe" the failure of Christians everywhere to 
live the teachings of Christ. Americans were not exempt from the "dis- 
integrating forces." 

We have shut Him out of our politics . . . our society . . . Even 
we women who should have kept our vision clear and our hearts 
true, have been caught in a whirl of fashion and luxury, of ex- 
travagance and social competition . . . Against the background 
of a Cross of light ... is thrown up a black iron cross, dripping 
with blood ... It is hate thrown up against Love; greed against 
self-sacrifice; destruction against redemption. Which cross is 

"The war is tearing the scales from our eyes," she went on; now we 
can see that "the world is one. The roar of artillery in Belgium means 
suffering women and children in Lawrence [and] persecutions in 
Turkey." All Americans, all Abbot girls must "take up our cross," and 
"share to the point of suffering" to recreate "the brotherhood of man." 14 
Many a school and youth organization resounded with a similar 
"drum-and-trumpet Christianity," 15 but the Abbot version did beat all 
for earnestness. Miss Bailey gave her Christmas sermon two and a half 
years before the United States' entry into the War, years during which 
Abbot prepared for the Lord's "great work waiting to be done." 16 
Rebekah Chickering had a Saturday afternoon lecture on Balkan prob- 

214 AGAINST THE TIDE, I 9 I 2 — I 9 5 4 

lems ready when war first broke out; she followed it up with a map 
talk the next fall on "Fundamental Causes of the European War." She 
and other teachers offered a new Current Events elective and volun- 
tary out-of-hours classes in Principles of Democracy and Civic Prob- 
lems. In the Fall of 19 17 students of French staged a "The Chantant" 
complete with cafe tables and singing "peasant" waitresses, for the 
benefit of the wounded French soldiers; soon 40 French orphans were 
"adopted" by students and faculty together. That same term the Stu- 
dent Government Association held an all-school meeting to found the 
Patriotic League. Nearly all students and faculty signed its Constitu- 
tion, pledging themselves to 

( 1 ) personal efficiency, including attention to hygiene, posture 
thrift, alertness; and 

(2) service, including, in addition to excellence in studies, 
sports, voluntary training classes, and military drill, self-denying 
contributions of time, work, and money for extra needs caused 
by the war. 17 

They promised further "to stand for the sincerity, honor and purity of 
American girlhood, and in our friendship with boys to uplift and not 
lower their ideals of womanhood." 18 Looking back on her wartime 
Abbot days, one student expressed the students' sense of these two 
fervent years as a "glorious height, where stood the hope of a world 
ruled by practical Christianity." "Our lives would be productive, effi- 
cient for the good of others," said another. "We were the hope of the 
world." 19 Working with the Student Council, Miss Bailey divided the 
school into groups of ten, both students and faculty; they made 4,500 
surgical dressings, knit soldiers' socks, and worked in the war vege- 
table garden or on the grounds. Two rival companies of the "Abbot 
Battalion" (150 students and faculty in all) carried on military drill 
for two years under the Phillips military instructor. Even the slackers 
must go without butter and sugar when the majority did the same. 
American students are "begging for training," Miss Bailey exulted in a 
19 1 8 speech to the New England Association of Colleges and Second- 
ary Schools. "They recognize that they are destined to take a hand in 
framing a new world." 

Meanwhile, the larger Abbot family was hard at work, one alumna 
directing thirty regional Red Cross Workshops in the Middle West, 
another nursing tubercular patients and organizing ambulance service 
during the Paris bombardment, a third taking over medical work for 
physicians called abroad, thousands of others doing their part. As 


many as 2,500 alumnae later reported war-time service of one kind or 
another. Some were promoted to the jobs men left behind. Sara Pat- 
rick, '98, after the War an instructor in Industrial Arts at Teachers 
College, Columbia, would write that the First World War challenged 
her "to reconstruct my experience, to recognize my colossal ignorance 
on many important questions and ... to think for myself regardless of 
what my group believed. Out of that ordeal, I came ... to a sense of 
belonging to a world society with responsibility for its welfare." 20 
Countless American women had similar experiences. Bertha Bailey ex- 
pressed their new seriousness in her speech "War and the Schools," 
saying that "the biggest job on earth at this moment is not fighting 
Germany, but making the women of the world equal to the task of 
saving humanity." 21 Make girls "good mothers," she implored fellow 
educators, "and they will be good workers and good citizens." "Apply 
motherhood to civic problems ... to regulation of child labor and 
other conditions of industrial activity . . . now soon perhaps to state- 
craft . . . that human values in every problem [may] be considered." 22 
Back in Davis Hall, she urged all Abbot girls to prove themselves "as 
truly women" as their "boy friends" are "proving themselves men." 

If you do not draw the line where you should, in speech, in 
laughter, in easy intimacy, they know, and in their hearts con- 
demn you. You have lowered an ideal . . . Strengthen their ideals 
. . . hold up to them something worth suffering and dying for . . . 
That is your part of service now and always." 23 

Abbot Academy did not intend to share in the "collapse of noble 
womanhood" which vitiated a society retreating step by step from 
Victorian norms. 24 

For a while after the War's end, the task of "framing a new world" 
according to a "new vision of God" 25 absorbed Abbot. Students had 
already earned thousands of dollars for Y.M.C.A. and Red Cross work 
at the Front: now students and faculty raised $3,000 more for refugee 
relief, bringing the total of war-related contributions to about $10,000. 
For several more years, the Principal proposed, and students voted to 
hold, "Hoover Dinners" or "Golden Rule Dinners"— simple food by 
the light of a single candle which saved $60.00 on each occasion, to be 
spent for some worthy cause. 26 Odeon short stories continued to de- 
pict the heroics of soldiers and the heart-rendings of their women left 
at home. Miss Bailey's sermons described how the ideal young woman 
must build on her traditional role to create a new society on the Pro- 
gressive model. "She looketh well to the ways of her household," said 
Miss Bailey, quoting her biblical text as always. "But how can she look 

2 1 6 AGAINST THE TIDE, 191 2-1954 

well to the ways of her household unless she inspects the bakeries, and 
cleans the canneries, and watches the stockyards, and guards the fac- 
tories, and sweeps the streets . . . and elects the President?" 27 

Yet the wartime pace could not be sustained forever, and the mis- 
sionary fervor gradually died. The Patriotic League was disbanded. A 
crisis that would once have been close to Abbot's heart— the Turkish 
slaughter of the Armenian Christians while U.S. officials and even some 
missionaries merely looked on, hoping not to offend a new ally— passed 
unnoticed in Courant and in school lecture programs, with only indi- 
viduals like Alice Hamlin Hinman, '87, working sadly for survivor 

Abbot's relaxation was minimal, however, compared with America's 
general exhaustion. Women war workers were disillusioned to find 
that their proven competence went unrecognized by the returning 
men, who took to the streets if necessary to win back their jobs. With 
the national surge back to normalcy, pay scales returned to their dis- 
criminatory prewar levels; even in federal government work, women 
were either paid less for doing the same jobs as men or, in some depart- 
ments, were not hired at all. Two thirds of the civil service examina- 
tions for professional posts were closed to women. Woman suffrage, 
so long fought for and finally achieved in 1920, proved not to be "a 
biscuit thrown to a whale," 28 as male detractors had feared: most 
women demanded no further rights, being perfectly content to vote 
as their husbands voted (or not to vote at all) and to watch the broad 
women's rights coalition— two million strong in 19 19— disintegrate into 
small, often futile successor organizations. Prohibition, pride of the 
"conservative Progressives" and considered by many to be women's 
supreme political accomplishment, was no panacea after all, only a 
messy failure. It was a time of "surging . . . disillusion," more dis- 
couraging to such as Vida Scudder, reformer and Wellesley professor, 
than any other time of her life. Another observer wrote, "Feminism 
has become a term of opprobrium." 29 Back in Andover, an era seemed 
to have ended when Agnes Park died in 1922; a special brand of 
toughness, generosity, and humor had gone out of the world. "She was 
unique in her generation," wrote the Abbot Trustees. "How much 
more did she stand out against the stereotyped society of the present 
day." 30 

Ironically, many of the "new" women convinced themselves that 
their liberation was complete. They smoked and drank at "petting" 
parties, they danced cheek to cheek with men, they reveled in the 
freedom to enjoy the "vamp" movies and the novels of James Joyce 
(censored, but widely available). The divorce rate soared. 31 Illegal 


birth control devices could be found, given money enough. Psycho- 
analysts had put their blessing on women's sexual pleasure. A careful 
study conducted after the twenties had run their course revealed that 
while 74 percent of middle-income women born between 1890 and 
1900 had remained virgins before marriage, only 32 percent born after 
191 o made the same claim. 32 As early as 191 5, socialite-intellectual 
Mabel Dodge Luhan had emerged from her own psychoanalysis to 
intone: "The sex act is the cornerstone of any life, and its chief 
reality." What more could an independent woman want? 33 Though 
this rebellious pleasure-seeking was not nearly so widespread as the 
conventional picture of the twenties suggests, it permeated the college 
student culture that beckoned to young people nearing graduation 
from secondary school and thus presented a palpable threat to Miss 
Bailey's Abbot Academy. 34 With the vocal support of older faculty 
like Miss Kelsey and Miss Mason and the passive assent of the rest, the 
Principal set out to provide against the assault on Abbot ways. 

Building the Walls 

Walls of various kinds had protected Abbot from its earliest years, but 
Bertha Bailey was one of the school's more resourceful engineers. As 
soon as she arrived, she made clear how high and how detailed were 
her expectations. She intercepted all food packages at the mailroom, 
then either confiscated them or commanded each recipient to share the 
entire contents with corridor or tablemates. 35 To warn girls to "dress 
simply" allowed of too many interpretations. Miss Bailey made clear in 
the 191 3 catalogue that "elaborate lingerie waists, decollete gowns, 
trains and expensive jewelry" would not be tolerated. Then as later, 
the Principal proved to her school that her warnings were no mere 
empty words. In order to make certain that the older students would 
heed them at prom time, Miss Bailey deputized Katherine Kelsey to 
stand on a chair (boy-height) while the girls paraded by, offering 
their necklines for inspection and their bosoms— if too evident— for 
censure. 36 Walking shoes were the daily wear, and high button shoes 
were required after November 1st, "one of the theories being that if 
we did not wear them our ankles would become large and our hus- 
bands would not love us" as a Coiirant cynic of after years quipped. 37 
Time passed, and injunctions against sleeveless dresses, flapper skirts, 
and three kinds of heels had to be added. After 19 17 only Stearns of 
Boston carried the black lisle stockings Abbot required. In 191 8 silk 
ones were finally allowed for ordinary wear, but black or blue cotton 

2l8 AGAINST THE TIDE, 191 2-1954 

remained the rule with gym bloomers. Alumnae parents asked Con- 
stance Chipman, '06, Trustee and Alumnae Field Secretary in the early 
thirties, to persuade Miss Bailey to abandon black cotton, but in vain. 
"Constance," the Principal replied, "I don't like legs." 38 

Even the Abbot Seal embarrassed Miss Bailey. "Truth" with her 
burning torch had been designed by Emily Means in the 1880's for a 
school taught to reverence classical sculpture. Miss Watson had had 
her drapery expanded to cover the bared breast. Miss Bailey put up 
with Truth's shoulder and elbows until 1929, when she finally asked 
the Trustees to find another design. Just in time for the Centennial 
Issue of Courafit, the Abbot family coat of arms was adopted, and 
"Truth" became history. 

Miss Bailey moved fast to block the routes out into the countryside 
or down the road to the Orchard Street ice cream parlor (where one 
could always find Phillips boys in Miss Means' day) by mapping first 
fifteen, then twenty-three "approved walks," the shorter ones to be 
taken with a companion dictated by the master schedule, those longer 
than four or five miles to be chaperoned. Mr. Stackpole, who loved 
solitary hiking and had understood when he and his fellow Trustees 
hired her that Miss Bailey also enjoyed it, was horrified by the "walk- 
ing squads," but kept his counsel. 39 Andover tea rooms were off 
bounds each year as soon as townsfolk reported unladylike deport- 
ment, once after girls piled all their dishes in a pyramid before leaving. 
"Not easy," an alumna of 19 16 remembers, "and far too hilarious." 40 
The two Boston Symphony tickets became three, one for a chaperone 
paid by the two student ticket holders, when an alert Andover neigh- 
bor reported the two Abbot seats empty one afternoon. Questioning 
back in the Principal's office revealed that once in Boston, the two mis- 
creants had decided a vaudeville show would be more fun. 41 Seldom 
after this were girls allowed to go unchaperoned on shopping or con- 
cert expeditions to Boston. 

These restrictions were not the Principal's whims. Miss Bailey had 
read her William James Psychology; she truly believed that right ac- 
tion becomes habitual, and that useful habits free the individual to use 
her "consciousness," her "higher" mental powers. "Truth" said James 
in Pragmatism, "is made true by events." 42 Increasingly, Bertha Bailey 
preached "habit" and "manners" from the chapel pulpit. Each Sep- 
tember she took three or four Saturday afternoon and Sunday evening 
hours to speak on Rules, on "The forming of a Christ-like life," on 
Personality, before letting other speakers have their say. As the twenties 
progressed and she watched the "exceptional fathers and mothers and 
teachers . . . struggle against the rising tide," she invoked all her gods 



31. (a) from Courant, 1886 (b) From Courant, 1896 (c) From Courant, 
Centennial Number 1929. 

220 AGAINST THE TIDE, I912-I954 

against young people's tendency to "go the limit." Good manners both 
create and express "fineness of spirit, beauty of soul," and, most im- 
portant, "social power," that combination of self-restraint and gener- 
osity that is essential to "good breeding." 43 

Aware of James or not, students seemed not to mind too much. Says 
Frances Flagg Sanborn, "We never thought of rebelling." Jane Bald- 
win, '22, remembers that she "had received much discipline at home, 
and expected the same at school." Most girls' schools were nearly as 
strict as Abbot, and, indeed, Abbot's rules coincided with the stan- 
dards enforced by many parents at this time. Mildred Bryant Kuss- 
maul's father told his daughter exactly where he stood in a letter 
of 1913: 

Your letter received, and now forget it as concerns the theatre. 
When boys ask your mother for permission to take you to the 
theatre with a chaperone it is time enough to talk it over. 

Girls who are not "chumps" don't buy tickets to take boys to 
the theatre. 

No! is the answer . . . It's a cheap crowd at night and not 
suitable for you or your young ladies. 

Love from Pa 

"We never minded the lisle stockings," says another alumna. Or 
(writes a fourth), "we moaned and complained, thinking it was utter 
nonsense to ban silk stockings . . . but if it hadn't been about silk 
stockings it might well have been about something more funda- 
mental." 44 What caprice could not be expressed in fashionable clothes 
was lavishly expended in hair styles: a "hair bobbing epidemic" in 
April 1920, a hair-growing one at the end of the decade, with every 
imaginable hot-wave and curlicue in between. Not even Miss Bailey 
could detect every midnight "spread," with "all the gooey things that 
could be assembled." 45 Saturday lectures by such moralizers as Mrs. 
Augustus Trowbridge on "evils of modern dancing," "the reasons for 
chaperoning," and so forth 46 were just talk to the older or more self- 
sufficient students; they did no harm, they made the teachers feel 
better, and they probably protected a few of the weaker girls. 

The Hilltop presented special problems, for Bertha Bailey appears to 
have shared with many of her contemporaries a "frantic fear of sexual 
promiscuity" which colored her every action. 47 Before she made up 
her mind to come to Abbot, Miss Bailey had asked the Trustees, "to 
what extent would the life of the household be complicated by the 
proximity of Phillips Academy?" 48 Her answer after her arrival seemed 
to be a hopeful "not a bit, provided all Abbot ignores all Phillips ex- 


cept on rare special occasions and heavily chaperoned Friday calling 
hours." Alumnae remember almost no other legal communication with 
Phillips Academy. Even telephone calls were chaperoned. Miss Bailey 
made sure that Stearns' joint Vesper services were never resumed after 
he returned from Sabbatical leave in 191 3. Faculty receptions ended on 
both sides; so did the lightly chaperoned sleighrides and picnics that 
Helen Abbott Allen remembered from earlier days. 

Was Miss Bailey responsible for the change? "Yes, indeed, that was 
Big Bertha, whom I adored," says Helen Abbott's daughter, Helen 
Allen Henry, '32. As a day scholar, she could not speak with her 
own brothers because they were Phillips boarding students. 49 If a 
young Phillips teacher wished to visit a sister or sister-in-law at Abbot, 
Big Bertha provided a chaperone to supervise. 50 To sit with your sister 
or your girl at a football game was out of the question. Two girls 
came home from a midnight walk with their Phillips' beaux to find 
Miss Bailey waiting for them in their suite. They were dismissed the 
following morning. "There is ordinarily no communication between 
the students of the two schools," wrote Bertha Bailey with conviction. 51 

All this might have been understandable to students in the mid- 
nineteenth century or even to the younger bodies in the early Bailey 
era, when the average age of menarche was 14 years; 52 it became less 
so to Abbot's older students during the 1920's when college women of 
the same age (with the conspicuous exception of Wellesley, Miss 
Bailey's alma mater) often had no restrictions beyond a 10:00 p.m. sign- 
in. Rather suddenly, Abbot's social rules assumed an antediluvian cast. 

Yet there was more to Abbot's defensiveness than Abbot: Phillips 
Academy was in its own way widening the chasm between the two 
schools. As Phillips prospered under Alfred E. Stearns, as it gave heroes 
and martyrs to the War for Democracy, it became ever more self- 
consciously masculine. Athletic contests now replicated those battles 
only a few Phillips students had actually had a chance to fight. Girls 
could never experience "the hour of glorious conflict, when the blood 
leaps, and the muscles rally for mastery, the decent manly pride in 
taking one's punishment ... as long as one can stand and see," as J. 
Adams Puffer put it in The Boy and His Gang, 53 but the Hilltop boys 
could do just this on Brothers football field. Teacher- housemasters ac- 
tually enforced dormitory rules. They backed Stearns in his decision 
to suspend the winter prom for two successive years when "the ex- 
travagances" and "dangers involved" in modern dancing appeared un- 
manageable. 54 It took an aggressive faculty to dispel the image of 
teaching as a "feminized" profession; many of them doubtless agreed 
with F. E. Chadwick, who told the world in 19 14 that the "woman 

222 AGAINST THE TIDE, I 9 I 2 - I 9 5 4 

peril" in the public schools was producing "a feminized manhood, 
emotional, illogical, non-combative against public evils." 55 On the play- 
ing fields, in the rough-and-tumble dormitory life, the masters did all 
they could to wean boys away from their overprotective mothers. 56 In 
the meantime, a Hilltop building boom underlined the material power 
behind male aspirations, most dramatically in the construction of the 
War Memorial bell tower and the Cochran Chapel with its soaring 
steeple. If Freud had known, he would have smiled. 

Alfred Stearns grew to be as wary as Miss Bailey of "the softening 
influences of modern social life," of unrestrained auto rides and un- 
chaperoned dances, and called in his Challenge of Youth for family, 
church, and school to renew the "eternal fight for virile and self-con- 
trolled manhood and womanhood" (sic), that Christian civilization 
might be saved. 57 In Stearns's view as in Miss Bailey's, this was best 
accomplished in single sex schools. Although Stearns had nothing but 
scorn for the "self expression and self realization" advocated by mod- 
ern psychology ("they all spell selfishness" he wrote), 58 he agreed 
with G. Stanley Hall, the child-study guru, that coeducation could be 
disastrous for adolescent boys. Convinced that females were made for 
mature men to cherish, not for boys to play with, impatient with 
"woman" and her "shouts for 'rights,' " Stearns thought it best to keep 
Abbot at a distance, 59 

Besides, he did not care for Bertha Bailey. He advised an inquiring 
friend, President Ernest Hopkins of Dartmouth, to send his daughter 
elsewhere. "When it comes to scholarship, etc., I feel pretty safe in 
saying that the school ranks very high," but Miss Bailey is "terribly 
austere and reserved," her regime "overstrict" and "a bit old fash- 
ioned." 60 Even the more open-minded of Phillips instructors "thought 
the Abbot rules were so absurd that nothing else about Abbot could 
be any good at all," Alan Blackmer remembered in 1975. Blackmer and 
his friends, most of them graduates of boys' schools and men's colleges, 
found girls' schools in general "simply irrelevant," and felt "only con- 
descension" toward Abbot in particular. As Blackmer was glad to 
admit 45 years later, "This was male chauvinism in its purest form.'' 

In spite of everything, Phillips-Abbot connections could not be 
wholly severed. Friday night meant "fish, ice cream and callers" at 
Abbot; dedicated couples made the best of calling hours, the boys lin- 
ing up sometimes for an hour ahead of time to secure seats as far from 
the chaperone-on-duty as possible. 61 Two "married couples" once 
linked arms on a bet and skipped around the Circle, running smack 
into Miss Bailey next to Draper Hall. (In her surprise, she laughed!) 62 
Numbers of Abbot alumnae had married Phillips teachers, including 


Bessie Goodhue, wife of Claude Fuess, who would soon be Phillips' 
Headmaster. Abbot's Fidelio Society occasionally sang with the Phil- 
lips Glee Club; a Phillips band played music for the Maypole dance 
one bright spring; Abbot girls and their chaperones attended many a 
football game; and, best of all, a victory over Exeter brought swarms 
of cheering Phillips students to the Circle, waving their torches and 
shouting "Bertha! Bertha! Bertha!" until Miss Bailey appeared to wave 
at them. 

Still the walls remained. In the Principal's anxious mind, those 500 
males on the Hill threatened chaos at the least, if not rapine, and the 
near-nightmare came true just often enough to perpetuate her fearful 
images. One May morning long after Miss Bailey had forbidden all 
Abbot to go near the town's annual May Breakfast, a gang of rowdy 
Cads celebrated that festive occasion by hurling buns at each other and 
being bounced out of the Town Hall. They jumped on the traffic 
light triggers till they broke, streamed into the snarled streets gather- 
ing reinforcements as they ran, and headed for the Abbot gates, 
hundreds strong and roaring. Miss Bailey's indignant scoldings from 
her apartment window accomplished absolutely nothing. The girls 
were thrilled. Al Stearns chugged through the gate in his coupe just 
in time to save Abbot from who knows what fate— but by the time he 
and Bertha Bailey met at the Draper Doors, there was not a boy to be 
seen, and every bush and hedge was quivering, every tree trunk alive 
with suppressed laughter. 63 

It is interesting that the only structures other than the Taylor infir- 
mary that were built under Miss Bailey were gates that could be 
closed at sundown and all day Sunday: the Merrill Gate in honor of 
Maria Stockbridge Merrill and the George G. Davis entranceway. The 
gates completed the privet hedge wall that soon concealed much of 
Abbot from the view of passersby. 

Behind the Walls 

It was not a nunnery. It was just that the world outside had to be held 
off, its stimulations and confusions filtered through the privet hedge. 
Even the ancient town held who knows what dangers, now that Law- 
rence pulsed and smoked to the north, now that automobiles could 
go anywhere. True to Elizabeth Stuart Phelps's prediction, "the An- 
dover of New England theology— the Andover of a peculiar people, 
the Andover that held herself apart from the world and all that was 
therein—" had become "an interesting wraith." 64 The town still had its 

224 AGAINST THE TIDE, 1912-1954 

special beauties, but Abbot could no longer count on its perfect 

Abbot's student body was, if anything, more homogenous now than 
in Miss Means's day, even though the geographical spread was greater 
than ever before. 65 "We were more or less all alike, I think," says 
an alumna of the mid-1920's. "The girls from Duluth hadn't had 
our advantages, we knew, but we didn't look down on them. They 
were darlings." Abby Castle Kemper, '31, on the other hand, feels that 
she and the other Midwesterners had had as many advantages as the 
others. Mrs. Kemper does remember the practical problems that the 
twelve to fifteen scholarship girls and missionary daughters con- 
fronted—finding time to do one's own laundry, for example, or amass- 
ing money enough to join the expeditions down town— but "Abbot 
was far from fashionable, far from wealthy." There was none of the 
social exclusion so often found in girls' boarding schools. 66 

Miss Bailey did not take chances on "aborigines" from Maine, and 
new entrance requirements kept out the interesting academic cripples. 
To be sure, Abbot still felt responsible to the constituency it regularly 
attracted in simpler days, and the Principal pitched her scholarship 
appeals accordingly: 

How many ministers and missionaries and farmers and professors 
can afford to pay a thousand dollars a year to educate their 
daughters at Abbot Academy? Yet these are the girls who most 
value the opportunity here, and who work hardest to use it to 
advantage . . . the girls we particularly desire. [19 19] 

Bertha Bailey brought in a handful of Chinese and Japanese girls. One 
of them, Tsing Lien Li, '16, a brilliant scholar, paid her tuition from 
the U.S. indemnity funds negotiated at the time of the Boxer Rebel- 
lion—and returned to Abbot as a young physician to be married in the 
Chapel. Miss Bailey constructed the traditional bridal arch herself, and 
gave the bride away. A Greek student and a Serbian refugee were also 
exotic companions; a few more day scholars of Irish descent followed 
the four Sweeney sisters, and the Trustees added ten small competi- 
tive scholarships to the twenty-three existing in 1927. But Abbot was 
a bit bland considering that New York City's population in the early 
1920's was about equally divided between Catholics, Jews, and Protes- 
tants, and in nearby Lawrence, 80 percent of the population were 
either immigrants or the children of immigrants. 67 A Southern student, 
Class of 1922, found that she and another deep South girl were the 
only two Democrats in the school. There was not a single Jew at 
Abbot until 1930, though stereotypes abounded. 68 One alumna social 


worker wrote of her astonished delight at finding bearded Jews reading 
Tolstoi in their tenements, as though she had assumed that this strange 
race could not possibly be literate. "You learn," she said, "that the 
chief interest of the Jewish father is not money, but his family." 69 Did 
she not learn such things at Abbot? 

Still, the school's talent for fostering the various in its chosen 
students remained undiminished. By encouraging Academic and C.P. 
students to combine in most out-of-class activities, Miss Bailey con- 
tributed much to each group's social experience; the faculty also 
welcomed an ever-increasing group of one-year special C.P. students, 
who brought a piece of the world in with them. 70 In her first winter 
at Abbot, Miss Bailey invited all the Seniors on an after-exams winter 
sports expedition to Intervale, New Hampshire. By the time she and 
the students had snowshoed, coasted, and cooked hot dogs together 
for three days, the girls felt more like Seniors than C.P.'s or A.C.'s, 
and all felt a new warmth for their awesome Principal, whose keen 
sense of humor and love of nature blossomed in that relaxed setting. 
The trip was so much fun that Miss Bailey repeated it every year. In 
19 14 the Seniors voted to have one set of class officers; all other classes 
followed their example. Most class plays were still dominated by 
Academic students, but then, C.P.'s held as many offices as Academic 
students; alumnae remember many close friendships that crossed the 
C.P.-Academic line. 71 Day scholars too were well represented. Field 
Day events were open to all. It helped that a few Academic students 
proved to be top scholars: Louise M. Greenough and Constance Ling 
won third-year status at the University of Michigan following their 
graduation in 1920. It is interesting to contrast Abbot's way of re- 
sponding to differences in student interest and abilities with Bradford's 
design. Bradford Academy tried to add junior college work to a sec- 
ondary-level preparatory department, but the older students tipped 
the balance: tension over differences in rules along with other prob- 
lems upset the combination. Bradford finally was rechartered as a 
junior college in 1932. Abbot was, as always, more pragmatic, even if 
no more successful, than its sister school, and most everyone seems 
to have benefited. 

The faculty helped immeasurably to sustain both variety and com- 
munity. The old hands had their niches; Miss Chickering— or "Mother 
Chick," since she gave students so much extra help— remained for 
many "the best teacher I ever had"; 72 but young Ruth Baker with her 
passion for German was also "best" for some, and the fortunate few 
who took English with Alice Sweeney, '14, shortly after she grad- 
uated from Vassar found her classes unforgettable. Miss Sweeney 

2 26 AGAINST THE TIDE, 19 I 2- I 954 

would return near the close of the Bailey years and become a key 
figure in Abbot's future. The Academy created both refuge and op- 
portunity for women who had won their independence through 
scholarly success, but who scorned, feared— or simply had no interest 
in— the uses many college women made of their freedom. For much 
of what passed for opportunity in the twenties actually channeled 
young women into constricted roles. The new emphasis on women's 
sexual enjoyment might liberate and deepen one's emotions, but ordi- 
narily one had to depend on a man to express them. It was exciting to 
read Proust and Stein, but as the cry for self-fulfillment drowned out 
the voices of those still passionately committed to social reform, 
women were ever less likely to consider political or social service 
their special mission. Few 7 men were willing to have their wives 
continue careers: only 12 percent of professional women were mar- 
ried in 1920. Thus society's expectations of women stagnated even 
though legal barriers to their progress had diminished. Graduate 
school attendance leveled off. Except in clerical work, occupational 
opportunities ceased to expand. 

Women teaching in public high schools found that men were 
awarded nearly all the department chairmanships and administrative 
posts. At least Abbot faculty members could run their own show. 
This took both resourcefulness and the courage to defy still-dominant 
concepts of woman's place, now enshrined in scientific terms by such 
as G. Stanley Hall in his influential Adolescence. Woman "works by 
intuition and feeling," Hall told his large and eager audience. "Her 
sympathetic and ganglionic system is relatively to the cerebro-spinal 
more dominant." "If she abandons her natural naivete and takes up 
the burden of guiding and accounting for her life by consciousness, 
she is likely to lose more than she gains." "Woman's body and soul 
are made for maternity, and she can never find repose for either 
without it." A "bachelor woman," especially one given to intensive 
intellectual pursuits, first loses mammary function, then becomes 
sterile. "The apotheothis of selfishness," she "has overdrawn her ac- 
count with heredity." So much for the single teacher. 73 

Abbot's long if muted tradition of respect for women's competence 
armored its faculty against such nonsensical expressions of old prej- 
udices, while the closed community created a sphere within which 
unmarried women could do self-respecting, useful work. If "Abbot 
was Victorian in those days," 74 so be it. The righteous work for 
worthy causes in which the Victorians specialized was as much needed 
as ever, and the Victorian spirit continued to energize the Abbot 
faculty, many of whom felt with Miss Bailey that they were teach- 


ing "to serve humanity." 75 Safe behind the walls, they carried on their 
generous and intricate art, selecting from the array of Progressive 
ideas whatever seemed best to suit them and their school. 

In spite of his forays into pseudo-science, G. Stanley Hall had con- 
tributed to the field of education his powerful conviction that the 
understanding of adolescent development could be strengthened by 
scientific investigation. His students, Arnold Gesell and Lewis Ter- 
man, more cautious than their mentor, set out to develop further the 
tests for mental development that Binet had pioneered in France. 
Phillips English teacher Claude Fuess came down to Abbot in 1920 
to administer the first so-called intelligence tests, which teachers 
found helpful— though never in themselves decisive— for placing stu- 
dents in appropriate classes. 76 The seeming success of the "mental 
ability" and "achievement" testing movement along with work of 
E. L. Thorndike and other learning psychologists helped convince 
educators that theirs was a true profession with its own body of 
technique, as well as an art and a moral commitment. By the twenties 
professional associations had been founded for almost every teaching 
field, and Abbot teachers took advantage of many of their gatherings 
to gain fresh ideas. Dorothy Hopkins, Abbot's first professional librar- 
ian, and the enduring Mary Carpenter, first full-time director of phy- 
sical education, participated in or led a professional conference every 
year; 77 other teachers joined the Modern Language Association, the 
Classical Association, or the School and College Conference on En- 
glish. Several studied for advanced degrees in Education at Harvard or 
Cornell. Some of the faculty's professional training was directly spon- 
sored by the Academy. In 1929-30 the Trustees expressed their ad- 
miration of History teacher Helen Bean (Abbot 1920-39; "very strict 
but very good" says Abby Castle Kemper) by supporting her during 
a year of study at Oxford. Principal and teachers together organized 
a six-year series of in-house faculty discussions to explore various 
phases of educational theory and practice: "the Adolescent Girl," "the 
Library as Laboratory," and "Science and Modern Life" were a few 
of the many topics covered. The Trustees also supplied tuition and 
board to two or three teachers a year for summer study after 1934. 
Miss Bailey joined the Progressive Education Association upon its 
founding in 19 19, was the hard-working Treasurer of the Head- 
mistresses Association, a member of the National Association of School 
Principals, and an Alumna Trustee of Wellesley. She urged teachers 
to visit innovative schools, and invited known (but safe) Progressive 
principals like Katherine Lord of Winsor to speak to the faculty. Im- 
plicit in many of her speeches and Chapel talks is the Progressive ed- 


AGAINST THE TIDE, I 9 I 2 - I 9 5 4 

32. Homemaking laboratory in the basement of Abbot Hall, circa 1917. 

ucator's central question, which casts aside traditional emphases on 
what should be taught and asks instead: how does the inner person 
change? 78 Thus did Abbot stay current with the new while it treasured 
the old. 

In addition to this pride of profession, attention to the sciences 
and arts was central to the Progressive spirit. John Dewey himself 
had wanted to bring the work of the world into the school in forms 
manageable and comprehensible to the young person, and the "Domes- 
tic Science" course was Abbot's response. It was instituted, according 
to the 191 3-14 catalogue, "to help girls realize the importance of the 
home as a unit of national life and the influence of a scientifically 
conducted house on the welfare of the state." This was small but seri- 
ous business. Only Academic Senior-Mids or Seniors who had taken 
(or were taking) chemistry were allowed into the laboratory kitchen 
in the basement of Abbot Hall. The student cooks contributed pickles 
and cakes to the main dining room, sometimes using materials from 
the school's vegetable garden. The prerequisites themselves seem to 
have been less exciting: seemingly after 1894, Abbot rarely did more 
than meet colleges' minimum demands in the laboratory sciences. The 
school added a short business course in 1934, and throughout the 
Bailey era brought in speakers to describe the vocations most hos- 
pitable to young women— medicine, nursing, social work, library and 
clerical work, education, psychology, and homemaking. One business- 
like lecturer, Dr. Mary W. Calkins of Wellesley, who had written 
the psychology text which Abbot Seniors used after 191 8 in place 
of James's Shorter Psychology, spoke on "Efficiency in the Manage- 
ment of Ourselves." As a Courant reviewer dutifully repeated, this ef- 
ficiency was similar to the efficiency needed in business management. 
"Because of her limited time, Dr. Calkins gave her talk in outline 
form." 79 Indeed, Abbot's attention to all the sciences was somewhat ab- 
breviated. Nellie Mason, the Department Chairman, acquired little new 
laboratory equipment after the Watson-Means years. Though the 


Senior Class president spoke at Miss Mason's retirement in 1932 of 
"the clear flame of her intellect" and her "great power of person- 
ality"; 80 though she was deeply kind to unhappy students; many 
alumnae remember Miss Mason as "dry, quiet, and unstimulating" in 
the classroom. One compares Abbot physics to "taking castor oil." 81 
Mathematics also continued to be unevenly taught, in spite of Miss 
Bailey's deliberate attempts to strengthen C.P. Algebra. 82 

The arts were a longer, richer story. Abbot met the post-Deweyite 
surge in favor of the arts with its own traditional commitment to 
music and the visual arts, and with its students' irrepressible love of 
drama, now no longer repressed. Mr. and Mrs. Ashton had taken 
over capably enough from Mr. Downs, but Walter Howe (1922-48) 
and his fulltime resident assistant and successor-to-be, Kate Friskin 
(1922-61), were overflowing with energy and inventiveness. Like 
Downs, Mr. Howe was both composer and organist. Though he also 
gave only part of his time to Abbot, he loved to play his organ com- 
positions ("Dedicace" was written to christen the enlarged Davis Hall 
organ) and to conduct any group willing to perform his piano con- 
certo, "Youth" (which was, the Townsman reported, "a very inter- 
esting musical interpretation of the delirious abandon of youth"), 83 
or his cantata, "Ode to Youth" (the text was written by Bertha Bailey 
and the Chatauqua Choir gave the world premiere). Howe persuaded 
the faculty to require Chorus Singing of every student, every year; 
he woke up Fidelio in such a manner that it never again was so inert 
as it was under Mr. Ashton. 84 He was "an enthusiast with tempera- 
ment," an alumna recalls; a "wonderful musician," says another, who 
never gave up on any would-be singer no matter how tone deaf. 85 A 
third traces to his teaching her own "deep joy in music." 86 Once a 
performer in the Baltimore String Quartet, Howe encouraged the 
exhilarating and difficult art of ensemble playing, adding a cello teach- 
er to the department and (with Miss Friskin) coaching ensembles, in- 
cluding such unlikely combinations as the new Aeolian Honor Society, 
founded in 1927 with a cellist, a violinist, a guitarist, several pianists, 
and a trumpet player. Miss Friskin, a professional concert pianist who 
had studied with the great musicologist Donald Tovey, was British, 
brusque, and demanding. "Nobody ever said no to Kate Friskin," re- 
members William Schneider of Phillips' Music Department. This force 
from down the Hill proved irresistible at times: you cannot sing a 
Bach cantata with girls or boys alone, and ambitious musicians do not 
rest short of Bach cantatas. Bach's Deck Thyself My Soul with Glad- 
ness was the centerpiece of a 1935 Phillips-Abbot program that began 
and ended with Howe's organ compositions. Often after supper Miss 

230 AGAINST THE TIDE, I 9 I 2 - I 9 5 4 

Frisian played generously and beautifully to all who wished to hear; 
faculty and student recitals abounded. Every time Kate Frisian and 
her brother James gave a two-piano concert in Jordan Hall, they 
would repeat it for Abbot audiences soon after. The Downs concert 
series continued (one year Ratan Devi played Hindu music on a sitar), 
and an average of 73 students studied music each year during the 

Painting, sculpture, and art history went on much as they had be- 
fore. To "experience the joy of creating" was more the point of it all 
during the twenties than were the disciplined seeing or the profuse 
cultural learnings of the McKeen era, but this was consistent with gen- 
eral cultural enthusiasms. 87 Stripped of its social vision, the child- 
centered pedagogical Progressivism of the twenties worshiped self- 
expression, 88 and occasional Abbot art teachers participated in this 
craze. However, a staff member of the Boston Fine Arts Museum 
came once a week after 1928 to give a course in "design" that brought 
back some of the old values. Thus, though no longer central to the 
curriculum as in Miss McKeen's day, art continued to thrive. 

Dramatics boomed. There were class plays, day scholar plays, cor- 
ridor skits, charity benefits, language plays, Dramatic Society plays, 
plays written and acted by the Academic Seniors, even faculty skits 
and plays, prepared in secret and uproariously received. Draper Read- 
ings became Draper Dramatics in 1924, and Bertha Morgan Gray di- 
rected both with equal enthusiasm from 19 17 to 1948. "Balmy Martha 
Melissa Howey" supervised the writing and production of the Se- 
niors' one-act plays. "She was an enormously interesting woman," Elaine 
Von Weber remembers. "She was literally passionate about [teach- 
ing playwriting], and if we disappointed her she burst into tears." 
Rarely did they disappoint her. 

No sooner had the Davis Hall stage been cleared of one set than an- 
other was constructed. Elaborate stage effects often accompanied them: 
Esther Kilton remembers a thunderstorm so successfully mounted from 
backstage that no one heard her lines, shouted through the din. One 
of the community heroes was Michael Scannell, School Engineer for 
thirty years, who read each play before rehearsals began, designed 
the scenery with pride and care, procured props from everywhere 
(Mr. Flagg's birdbath made a perfect fountain), and supervised Mr. 
Hammer, the carpenter, in the set construction. He had a stake in 
almost every production. When a rehearsal-watcher gushed, "That is 
the best scenery Abbot ever had!" Mr. Scannell quickly replied, "Then 
the play ought to be the best work Abbot ever did." 89 Miss Bailey 
also did her part, always remembering to come backstage after a play 


2 3* 

33. Senior Class play, 1913: "Twig of Thorn.' 

34. "Masque of the Flowers" 1914. 

232 AGAINST THE TIDE, I 9 I 2 - I 9 5 4 

to congratulate the players and their faculty director. The girls 
brought off men's parts with panache. Petrucio in The Taming of the 
Shrew and the Irish villagers of Lady Gregory's Spreading the News 
surprised new audiences; the pleasure taken in this skill can still be 
seen in commemorative photographs. 

Abbot seems to have stayed clear of the avant garde: cubism in art, 
Dadaism in drama and poetry, anything other than Howe in contem- 
porary music— these never appear in studio, on stage, or on class read- 
ing lists. Bits of blank verse creep into Courant toward the late 
twenties, emblems of easing resistance to the modern in the English 
curriculum. Through about 1930 however, the British classics dom- 
inated reading lists. Abbot students had to learn to write a sonnet: 

Sometimes on winter days the ghost of spring 
Returns again to haunt us for a space, 
And with her spirit fingers seems to fling 
Upon the earth a semblance of the grace 
And loveliness with which she used to rule. 
Snows vanish at her phantom touch; the grass 
Puts on its faded green as if to fool 
Itself; and all the drowsy, frozen mass 
That is the world stirs in its sleep and dreams 
Of summer time; and what few birds remain 
Feel in their breasts a strange new joy that seems 
To burst forth from their throats, a glad refrain. 

But man smiles wistfully and shakes his head, 

For he alone remembers Spring is dead. 

[Harriet P. Wright, "The Ghost of Spring," in Courant, 
February 1932, 20] 

before trying a contemporary idiom: 

Savagely I love 
The sight of fleet, grey rain, 
The rip of snagged thunder, 
The snarl of frustrate wind, 
The sudden hissing silence 
Of beaten waves. 

[Dorothy Rockwell, "Poem," ibid., 36] 

English teacher Josephine Hammond, with her advanced degrees and 
her experience in college teaching, was a poet herself: she held several 
readings before the school. Lady Gregory came twice to eat Saturday 
luncheon and lecture afterward. The English V playwrights produced 


some marvelous pieces amid much dross. The Flapper girl in "Flapper 
Rule" written by Paulina Miller, '20, and set in the early war years, 
appears interested only in flirting— but gentle reader, look again! This 
coy facade is a cover-up for her plan to join the Italian Women's 
Battalion, a purpose revealed by mistake and reviled by her college 
fop of a brother, but, it turns out, much admired by her handsome 
suitor (the brother's archaeology professor), who has secretly resolved 
to join the Foreign Legion. Now and then a bit of Freudianism erupts 
in student writing: one student's Emily Dickinson "had formed habits 
of repression; and all her life, she renounced resolutely the things she 
unconsciously longed for." 90 Most Abbot writers kept such fancies 
under strict control. 

Though the Academic Course students could adventure in classic 
American novels, College English was essentially a history of English 
literature from Chaucer through Stevenson. Yet college requirements 
were not completely static, nor was the English program. By 1928 
Miss Chickering was asking her students both to analyze a Shakespeare 
sonnet and to "quote part of some modern poem that you like and 
explain why you like it"; 91 and when Alice Sweeney rejoined the 
faculty in 1935, she helped further to modernize the English offerings: 
Hardy, Rolvaag, Ibsen, Shaw, Aeschylus, and Virginia Woolf had 
found their way to Abbot by the end of the Bailey era. Although this 
was a bit late, one is impressed by the richness and variety of the 
older English curriculum within its self-imposed limitations. After all, 
a lot happened in literature before 1900. Considering how whole- 
heartedly many secondary schools embraced the "life-adjustment" cur- 
riculum during the twenties and considering the number of educators 
"in full flight from the ideal of intellectual education" 92 which had 
powered Abbot for decades, it now seems fortunate that Bertha Bailey 
and her colleagues were so stubborn, so very old-fashioned. 

Finally, Abbot made giant strides to deal with an aspect of schooling 
dear to educators of the whole child— physical education. Backed by 
the Trustees, Miss Bailey made this more than a matter of hockey, 
basketball, and daily exercise. There were the four to six required 
"hygiene" lectures given by Mary Carpenter, physical education di- 
rector, and by a visiting woman doctor in which sex was mentioned 
more than once. While the Courant editors' enthusiasm for these lec- 
tures appears to be contrived to please their faculty advisers, 93 there 
is no doubt of Mary Carpenter's kindness, or of the familiarity with 
every Abbot student she gained through her single-handed leadership 
of the physical education program. She was an accesible confidante 
for many students with physical problems— or any problem— and her 

234 AGAINST THE TIDE, 191 2-1954 

inventive enthusiasm persuaded even the reluctant to exercise. For 
those who hated gymnastics, there were folk and rhythmic dancing 
classes, while the gymnasts climbed ropes, leaped "horses," and tum- 
bled in Davis Hall to their hearts' content. Field Day was potato races, 
horseback riding games, and a tug-of-war as well as a track-tennis-team 
sport meet. For Saturdays Miss Carpenter organized canoe trips or 
"picnic walks" to the more remote woods and farmlands of Andover, 
and on rainy Wednesday afternoons half the school flocked to Ale- 
Keen Hall to enjoy the intrigue of a game of "Beckons Wanted" or 
"Sardines." Best of all was the construction of a winter sports ground 
just west of the school— a toboggan slide, a small ski hill, and a skating 
pond for informal sports. Mary Carpenter made sure that every girl 
in the school 'had a pair of skis to use. 94 A sign on the bulletin board, 
"Skating today" meant fun— and no excuse to sneak off skating with 
the Phillips boys (who were by now too busy sweating in the gym to 
go along anyway). One winter there was a full fifty days of skating 
weather. The little pond was always the center of Abbot's annual 
Winter Carnival, a day-long, mid-winter frolic; in the late spring it 
filled up with as many as seventy swimmers (or splashers), all female. 
Progressive critics would have approved this emphasis on self- 
development and healthy recreation. They would have had less en- 
thusiasm for the coercion involved (everyone must exercise at least 
one hour a day, and prove it each week by her exercise card) or for 
the competition generated by the new team and "point" system, which 
replaced the class contests of earlier years. With Mary Carpenter's 
help, the Senior athletic captains divided the school into the "Gar- 
goyles" and the "Griffins." "Points" recorded every physical activity 
or accomplishment: approved walks, posture improvement, hours spent 
riding or playing golf, and winning scores for tennis matches, hockey 
games, and Field Day events. 95 After Field Day, the team with the 
most points won for the year, and celebrated at the athletic award as- 
sembly. There was a Posture Honor Roll (with but eighteen members 
in 1923-24), an "A" Society for students with 200 points, and as if 
that wasn't enough, an "Honor A" Society for three or four citizen- 
scholar-athletes with flawless disciplinary records and 300 points. Stu- 
dent Council members immensely enjoyed their role in nominating 
the "Honor A's" to the faculty each year: thus was school-girl catti- 
ness legitimized by hallowed purpose. Competition might be suspect 
in female academies of the mid-nineteenth century and even more so in 
Greenwich Village of the twenties; not so at Miss Bailey's Abbot 
Academy. 96 The Courant editors may have sounded overwrought even 
to contemporary ears when badgering their peers to pull in their torsos 


and act like "real, live, wide-awake, enthusiastic girls, full of 'pep and 
go.' " 97 Abbot alumnae, however, remember the Bailey era physical 
education program with pleasure, perhaps in part because the few who 
were truly lazy managed to do no more each day than walk down to 
Lowe's Drug Store for a soda— and got away with a glowing falsifica- 
tion on their Exercise Cards— while gung-ho students could enter the 
fray of point-competition, and others could simply enjoy the fun of 
exercise in multiple forms. 

There was no doubt of Bertha Bailey's devotion to competition. The 
social striving fostered by the sororities repelled her, and she closed 
them down in 19 14, but she soon instituted a Scholastic Honor Roll 
whose much-publicized roster excluded all but 5 to 10 percent of the 
students, since a scholastic average of 88 or above and a good citizen- 
ship record were the requisite qualifications. After 1925 the name of 
every student who received an A grade was read aloud in Chapel. 
The girls who presented the day's news most eloquently at dinnertime 
were voted members of the newsgivers' Honor Roll. Odeon ceased 
to be an open literary club and became an Honor Society limited to 
twelve members; Science, Art, and Music Honor societies joined 
Odeon in the twenties. The first Cum Laude chapter ever founded in 
a girls' school was Abbot's pride after 1926. 98 These societies and the 
Athletic and Student Government leaders had many members in com- 
mon; one wonders how the left-outs felt about the interlocking di- 
rectorate. Did they ever complain, as an Abbot student of the late 
sixties did, that "At this school the same people always get chosen for 
everything?"** Few alumnae admit to having minded; it was called 
"keeping standards high." Moreover, there were so many different 
honors at Abbot that almost any girl was bound to win at least one of 
them. Seemingly there was always some Abbot adult or older student 
ready to encourage and approve even the weakest, so long as the 
weakest kept on trying. 100 This combination of clear standards and 
warm encouragement would be a continuing source of strength for the 
twentieth-century school— never mind that it satisfied neither Progres- 
sive ideologue nor traditionalist pedagogue. For most students it seemed 
to work. 

Bertha Bailey 

A good principal takes ultimate responsibility, and Miss Bailey was 
ready. She must have known before she came, for example, how an 
Abbot principal must become pastor to the school if religion is to con- 

2 3 6 


55. The Abbot Chapel. 

tinue to have meaning and power. Alumnae speak of her as a person 
who "lived her religion" with utter sincerity. 101 Her pulpit eloquence 
never seemed like self-display, for it always started from Scripture 
and reached toward each individual in the audience, striving to inspire 
and help. "Stir up the gift that is in thee," one sermon began, "for 
God gave us not a spirit of fearfulness, but of power and love and 
discipline" (Paul's letters to Timothy II, 1:6, 7). After elucidating the 
quotation with further biblical references, Miss Bailey explained that 
she had chosen it for her 1934 New Year's message "because I think 
you need to be reminded, even as Timothy did, of the gift that is in 
you. Perhaps you have been unaware that you had any gift ..." The 
rest is a paean to faith in oneself and in the ultimate good of God's 
purposes. Even unbelievers believed at such time— in Bertha Bailey's 
goodness if not in God's— and felt that "power and love and discipline" 
might someday be within their grasp. Like Miss McKeen, Miss Bailey 
was happiest when students voluntarily joined the Church while at 
Abbot ("The universe is ours but we have to take if') 102 or came of 
their own will to her special Lenten services; but she also felt keenly 
her responsibility to each member of that captive Chapel congregation, 
and everyone knew it. To Dorothy Rockwell, '32, Bertha Bailey was 


a "faith-lifted personality," to Miriam Sweeney, '23, "the most inspir- 
ing person I have ever known." 103 

Seniors after 1925 had special attention from Miss Bailey in the 
ethics and theism courses. Growing in confidence as Abbot's unor- 
dained minister, she took these over after the highly capable Rev. 
Charles Oliphant died, and gave them her all. Each year's syllabus 
was freshly thought out with the purpose of "removing obstructions 
to faith" for the particular Seniors involved. 104 The class began with 
different forms of unbelief ("I don't believe in the God of the Bible") 
and dealt with these one by one. (Given modern theories of evolution, 
the Bible indeed reveals itself as "a childish explanation of nature," 
but study and see how the Creation God of Genesis evolves by the 
time of the Prophets: "which God are you talking about?"). Each 
week students handed her an account of their reading from a list deal- 
ing with "the Cause," the "personality of God," "creative evolution," 
the Trinity. They mulled over the relationship of the spiritual and the 
material by discussing the query "How much time would it take to 
throw away a million silver dollars?" ("5% days," answered one girl, 
"Hardly worth becoming a nervous wreck.") 105 Few cynics could 
altogether reject her efforts. 

For some girls Miss Bailey was "a ship in full sail," a person of such 
awesome power and authority that you avoided her whenever she 
hove into sight. 106 To these few her moral outrage could be over- 
whelming: one remembers two girls expelled for spending the night 
with two Phillips boys, and a morning-after diatribe in Chapel so 
withering that the offenders' sin paled beside their judge's anger. Oth- 
ers loved Abbot in spite of her. "The beauty and wholesomeness of 
the whole two and a half years were so great I hardly felt Miss Bailey's 
unkindness to me," wrote one graduate of 1933. "I could even sym- 
pathize with Miss Bailey. She liked people with some life to them, 
and I was a rag of a creature, too busy taking everything in to give 
anything." Until Commencement day itself the Principal threatened 
every week to withhold this "creature's" diploma. 107 

But most students felt free to come to Miss Bailey in time of trouble, 
whether the trouble began with the school or with themselves. She was 
"kind and calm and strong," remembers Alice Sweeney, '14 "ready 
equally to listen to a problem or a joke." 108 Yes, she was a harsh dis- 
ciplinarian—but almost everyone agrees she was entirely fair. "We 
were all afraid of her, but we all admired and loved her," says one 
alumna. 109 She tried hard to work with representatives of the Student 
Government. If they sometimes failed her by too much respecting 
the injunction "See no evil, speak no evil, hear no evil," 110 she usually 

238 AGAINST THE TIDE, I 9 I 2 - I 9 5 4 

managed to identify the more responsible student councils that could 
handle all minor and some major infractions; thus girls saw that she 
was consulting with their respected peers, and rarely felt abused. 111 
The haggling over school constitutions and lists of demerit offenses 
("visiting other students in negligee: one demerit") was often petty 
and self-righteous; u Stu G" nevertheless gave many girls experience in 
running affairs, and opened privileged access to Miss Bailey for a few 
("Miss Bailey is just wonderful . . . Always tell her everything," the 
outgoing Council president of 1923 advised her successor). 112 Everyone 
knew that she had given up her apartment to a girl who was critically 
ill with double pneumonia before the Infirmary was available and con- 
ducted prayers for the same girl in Chapel, that she would spend hours 
with a student who was struggling to cope with some agonizing family 
situation, 113 that she herself had nursed her dearest friend through her 
final illness, 114 and had suffered the death of a beloved niece. Big 
Bertha would understand. Much she did in secret. Perhaps a handful 
of people realized how little her public stance toward sex matched 
her private support and comfort of one student who had become 
pregnant. 115 Rarely did she confuse Abbot's real business with its repu- 

Now and then Miss Bailey relaxed. The first woman in all Andover 
to own a car, she loved to motor into the country or to visit friends. 
Her professional travels were also a release, for they brought her occa- 
sionally out of reach of Abbot's reputation. A younger colleague from 
Bradford still remembers her astonishment at Miss Bailey's behavior 
inside a New York City taxicab en route to a meeting of the Head- 
mistresses Association. She put up the jump seat in front of her, set 
her feet upon it, leaned back and lit a cigarette. And she joked and 
laughed in a manner which the Courant editors would not have found 
at all "decently and sweetly feminine." 116 This too was Bertha Bailey, 
but few ever knew it. More of her associates were aware of her love 
for her great-nephew and niece, whose visits to her at Abbot were 
among her greatest joys. 

Except for the Senior Bible and Theism classes, Miss Bailey left most 
of the teaching to the teachers, considering herself not so much an in- 
tellectual leader as a court of appeal for others' initiatives. 117 Her first 
inclination when presented with a new idea was always to say "No," 
but she was willing to reconsider if a staff member presented a clear 
counterargument. 118 She encouraged her teachers to run their own de- 
partments, taking onto herself the endless housekeeping chores that 
make a boarding school work. Her correspondence files are filled with 
letters to carpet dealers, invitations to speakers, and letters to thank 


the same speakers. Miss Means had done all this ably, too— but Miss 
Means's Abbot had nothing like the thirty-eight nonteaching house- 
hold staff members whom Miss Bailey accumulated, or the paperwork 
involved in arranging a testing session or a prom. It is little wonder 
that Miss Bailey had time to build nothing but the Antoinette Hall 
Taylor Infirmary, planned by the Trustees before she arrived and soon 
provided for by Phillips benefactor Melville Day and other donors, 
most of whom made their contributions at the behest of Emily 
Means. 119 Though she carried through some renovations in the older 
buildings and helped outfit Sunset Lodge, Draper Homestead, and 
Sherman Cottage for student dormitories, more brick structures were 
not needed at this time. Bertha Bailey was busy building the school 
within the walls. 

High and Low 

Burton S. Flagg? Well, I should say I do. 

He's the biggest man voe^ve got . . . 

Andover filling station attendant 

quoted in Worcester Academy Bulletin 

Abbot had seen crises before, crises that tested the school's strength 
and adaptability, but the Great Depression put the survival of all inde- 
pendent schools in question. For a while, private enterprise itself was 
at the barricades. Who could be sure at the time that the crisis would 
pass? Not the corporation lawyers who bought subsistence farms in 
the Berkshires and waited for Armageddon; certainly not the adults 
who steered Abbot through the rising flood. Behind the calm face the 
Academy presented to the world, its Principal and Trustees struggled 
to hold off disaster. Their success came just in time, for new challenges 
were to follow hard upon those presented by the Depression: the 
sudden death of Bertha Bailey in 1935 and the installation of a dynamic 
new principal amid the gathering clouds of war. 


It was ironic that the stock market crash of 1929 should break into 
Abbot's Centennial year, but there was good fortune as well as irony 
in that conjunction. The major celebration was months behind when 
the Crash came, and if Abbot's constituency became quite suddenly 
unable to fulfill Abbot's dreams for the future, much of the hard work 
that was to ensure its passage intact through the Depression had al- 
ready been done in preparation for the grand birthday. 

Abbot's alumnae were the wheelhorses, while Principal Bailey and 
Treasurer Flagg cajoled from behind or canvassed the financial coun- 
try ahead, organizing supply bases for the expedition and preparing to 
put its findings and accumulations to the best possible use. An active 
minority of alumnae had begun planning just after the end of the 
First World War to make the Centennial worthy of the Academy. 


They were pleased with Bertha Bailey; they wanted to revive the 
long-range plan for Abbot's future that she and Mr. Flagg had set be- 
fore the Trustees in 191 5, when $100,000 was needed to fuel the ex- 
panding school. The War had intervened but the school expanded 
anyway, and was now too full to admit all who would enter. These 
graduates were readying proposals of their own for a Centennial fund 
in the fall of 19 19 when Miss Bailev sent around to all alumnae a letter 
describing Abbot's need for funds. Running expenses had almost 
doubled since 191 5; tuition would go up yet another notch, wrote Miss 
Bailey, and still Abbot must have outside help to maintain the com- 
munity in the style to which it had become accustomed in the A4eans 
years, to offer salaries that matched the dignity and importance of the 
teacher's job, and scholarships to those daughters of clergymen, teach- 
ers, and social workers who had for so long been central to the 
school's mission. 

In the months following, a conference of alumnae, faculty, and 
Trustees sorted out the tasks: the alumnae took on the actual job of 
raising a ten-year endowment fund; Miss Bailey would travel and 
speak, encourage and inspire; the Trustees would provide Jane Car- 
penter to help organize the work, and would take care of all office ex- 
penses so that every dollar given could go into the fund itself. The 
Loyalty Endowment Fund was born. 

A few alumnae were soon off on their own tack planning a new 
Library in memory of Emily Means, who died in 1922, an appropriate 
memorial indeed for a lady who "was always reading, reading," as one 
donor put it. 1 Mary Byers Smith's Committee was as determined and 
independent as the lady it wished to honor; it was not until 1924 that 
its members made their own fund, standing then at $7,000, a subdivi- 
sion of the Loyalty Fund. The Means Library Committee found strong 
support for its efforts from Abbot's Librarian, Dorothy Hopkins, who 
would manage in the first decade of her tenure to double both the 
collection (8000 volumes in 1930 compared with 2400 for the average 
private secondary school) 2 and its yearly circulation (2100 for books 
alone). With its browsing section, its system for guidance of student 
research, and its active periodical circulation, Abbot's library was al- 
ready a model for schools throughout the Northeast. 3 It asked only for 
better housing, and this Miss Smith was bound she would provide. 

Other alumnae were interested in ensuring smaller classes, still others 
in establishing a Laura Watson Art Fund or an Agnes Park Chair of 
History, in raising the level of all teachers' salaries, or in increasing 
scholarships. Thus many concerns were funneled into the single fund; 
appeal after appeal went out and was answered; every cord of senti- 

242 AGAINST THE TIDE, 191 2-I954 

ment was pulled to commit alumnae to repaying their debt of honor 
to the old school. Large lump-sum gifts were encouraged, but the 
alumnae leaders' zeal was most of all to reconnect each Dear Old Girl 
to Abbot with annual gifts, for "the family tie seems a little closer if 
one sends a special remembrance to the Mother regularly." 4 

Alumnae activities of all kinds increased. Connecticut graduates 
started another Abbot club in 1923 as the fund reached $40,000. The 
Alumnae Bulletin, begun in 1923 and edited by Jane Carpenter for all 
alumnae, publicized the D.O.G.s' activities and their school's needs 
much more effectively than could the student-run Courant with its 
limited circulation. There was more interest than ever in the Alumnae 
Advisory Committee, a rotating group of "visitors" founded by Anna 
Dawes and Miss Bailey soon after the latter's arrival and chaired for 
years by Agnes Park. (True, they did more visiting than advising, for 
Abbot never absorbed criticism easily, but the Committee brought 
many old girls back in touch with their school.) Alumnae were asked 
to recruit new students: "Send us some more," urged Miss Bailey in 
the Bulletin, "the best you can find . . ." 5 Reunions were enthusias- 
tically arranged and attended. Every living member of the Fifty Year 
class returned in 1926, several traveling thousands of miles to do so. 
Alice C. Twitchell, '86, the Volunteer Fund Director, held many 
gatherings at Abbot, and traveled from one Abbot Club to another, 
asking always for money and more money. Faculty and students at the 
school raised contributions in the time-honored ways: the Bazaar of 
Six Nations, held in May 1925, and a faculty recital the same weekend 
brought a total of $1,100 to the Fund. The Bulletin wove together the 
many strands of this alumnae effort, kept people informed of school 
and alumnae news, and as the Centennial itself drew near, excited ever- 
increasing interest in the coming celebration. 

A grand celebration it was. 6 Just four days wide, including the two 
Commencement days of June 1929, the birthday box came packed 
with 600 alumnae, as many parents and friends, students, townspeople, 
and luminaries from the world of education— about 2,000 folk in all. 
Baccalaureate and Commencement came first, the graduation address on 
Loyalty given by President William Allan Neilson of Smith College, 
but all the students stayed on for the further festivities. The third day 
there was an all-class parade led by Sarah Abbott Martin, class of 
1856, with several classes marching around the circle in costume- 
painter's smocks and palettes for 1904 in honor of Emily Means, huge 
red hats and boas in memory of 1907's fashions. In the evening a movie 
of contemporary school life flickered through several showings in the 
big tent, while students and faculty mounted an historical tableau in 


2 43 

j^v art 

* » 


36. The Dear Old Girls: Class of 1886 at their Fiftieth Reunion. 


Br - 1 


J w i ' 

37. Bac& When. 

244 AGAINST THE TIDE, 191 2-I954 

Davis Hall, all its characters costumed with impeccable accuracy, from 
Squire Farrar and Harriet Beecher Stowe through croquet-playing 
students of the 1870's to the barelegged rhythmic dancers of 1929. 

On the final day, the whole crowd filled the Circle to hear a histori- 
cal address by President Mary E. Woolley of Alt. Holyoke, one of the 
most prominent woman educators of the time, and shorter speeches by 
Vassar's President, Bradford's Principal, a parent (Governor Charles 
W. Tobey of New Hampshire), and Rev. iMarkham Stackpole for the 
Trustees. No one had been invited to speak for Phillips Academy, al- 
though Alfred Stearns sat among the 19 "Delegates from the Schools." 7 
Perhaps there was some female chauvinism in the enthusiasm with 
which the 180 Abbot girls sang out Hoist's anthem, "Lord Who Hast 
Made Us for Thine Own," thrilling their audience. 8 

At this great gathering, the hard workers were publicly thanked, 
including the editors of the various Centennial publications— though 
Editor Chickering of A Cycle of Abbot Verse could not immediately 
be found. "I think she has misplaced herself," said Chairman Constance 
Chipman to roars of laughter. 9 Finally Alice Twitchell presented to 
the Treasurer a scroll of parchment which announced the completed 
Centennial Loyalty Fund: $160,000. True, the total was less than all 
had hoped for. When large endowment gifts failed to come in, the 
Fund's name had been quietly changed to remove the word "Endow- 
ment" 10 and free the school to use the money for immediate needs as 
well as long-range ones. Some $47,000 of gifts specifically donated as 
endowment funds were announced separately so that the extraordinary 
alumnae effort could stand for all to see. Ninety-eight percent of Ab- 
bot's graduates had given to the Loyalty Fund; 11 the final sum had been 
built out of hundreds of small gifts. Abbot had no millionaires, but it 
had many, many friends. 

Luncheon over, Abbot and friends looked to the future. Miss Bailey 
had arranged a symposium to be chaired by Trustee Ellen Fitz Pendle- 
ton, President of Wellesley, and entitled "Art and Life." Four well 
known representatives of the arts, including conductor and composer 
Alfred Soessel of New York University, spoke briefly and eloquently 
about the ways that art might shape life, and Abbot's own alumna 
Mira Wilson, '10, principal-elect of Northfield Seminary, spoke for 

The Abbot family could well go home content from its birthday 
party. The dignity of the celebration had been balanced by joyful 
meetings, by the much-remarked welcome that the students gave to 
the D.O.G.'s, 12 and by tearful leavetakings. The Academy was more 
prosperous than at any time in its history, with its $850,000 of assets, 13 


its respected Principal and Trustees, its body of teachers, students and 
alumnae with their varying but usually genuine devotion to the school. 
"It's a grand school!" enthused Marion Brooks in nearly the same 
words Harriet Chapell had used 55 years before. 14 


"And it came to pass!" wrote one participant. 'The Centennial was in 
the distant future, it was near— it was here— it was over and gone." 15 
And indeed, the class banners were no sooner hung in their places in 
Davis Hall the next October than warning rumbles were heard from 
Wall Street. The warning was late; the collapse was swift. Businessmen 
and all who depended on them were bewildered: for the first time on 
record, a quorum could not be found for the late fall Trustees Meeting 
of 1929. The meeting "has been adjourned indefinitely," reads the 
ominous record. 16 In fact, Abbot was very much a going concern. On 
March 6, 1930, the Trustees picked themselves up and met as usual, 
watchful but apparently recovered from the first shock and prepared 
to make some decisions. 

In the first months following the Crash, no one could be sure how 
deep the disturbance would go. On reflection, some anomalies of the 
last two years began to fall into place: Principal payments on Abbot's 
Chicago City Railway bonds had been in default since 1927; five 
boarders had withdrawn for financial reasons during the summer of 
1928; enrollments had been lagging in all girls' schools. Treasurer Flagg 
went through the winter of 1930 cautiously worrying. Did the de- 
pressed market signal fundamental weakness, or was it just a drawn- 
out slump? 17 Should Abbot go ahead with another fund-raising cam- 
paign? While Trustees pondered, signs of trouble abounded. The ex- 
ecutor of a California estate left to Abbot could not settle it because 
no market had appeared for real estate appraised at $20,000. The 
Hoover Conference reestablished confidence (wrote Flagg to the 
Trustees) and demonstrated that business was "fundamentally on a 
sound basis," but "the recent holocaust in the securities market" could 
not be ignored. Anything might happen. 18 

All through the fall and early winter of 1929-30 the Trustees went 
ahead with their plans for a professional fund-raising campaign to 
complete the work that the amateur alumnae had so bravely begun. 
Impelled by a sense that there must be big money for Abbot some- 
where and that men would know how to get it out of men if the 
women could not find it or give it, they moved through the uncertain 

246 AGAINST THE TIDE, I 9 I 2 - I 9 5 4 

months following the Crash, testing the water. Inquiries of parent in- 
tentions for 1930-31 promised only a small drop in enrollment; the 
school seemed calm. Abby Kemper remembers just one girl in 1929-30 
whose father was in big business and vulnerable; the daughter was 
fearful that her coming-out party would be canceled. (It was.) 
Courant never mentioned the Crash. The Trustees voted to increase 
Miss Bailey's salary from $6000 to $6600; they voted a leave of absence 
with full salary for Kate Friskin; they thanked Treasurer Flagg for his 
gift of land to enlarge the skating pond, and authorized him to con- 
struct a dam "when the finances of the school make it advisable." 19 
Abbot business as usual. But the long future was less sure, and "in view 
of the fact that the present conditions do not afford favorable pros- 
pects for the raising of money," 20 the Trustees voted to suspend nego- 
tiations with Tamblyn and Brown, the fund-raising firm they had 
counted on to find that hidden gold. The Means library project was 
soon to be dropped also: the building estimates "were so overpower- 
ing" that the consulting architects were sent away until more money 
could be raised. 21 Regret and mild anxiety pervade these records of the 
early Depression. Still, the school had work to do. The big campaign 
and the library could wait six months, a year if necessary. 

Depression, and "Abbot's Staunchest Friend 


Four years later, Abbot Academy was in fear of closing its doors. 
According to Flagg's account of the first five years of Depression, 23 
the school lost an average of $60,000 a year from its $850,000 net 
worth in tuition income and in the market value of its securities. This 
does not even count the drop in value of all the school's real estate- 
assets whose market worth was never tested in the grim years. 1932 
and 1933 were the worst: income alone dropped $60,000 from $216,000 
ill June 1932 to $156,000 a year later. The worth of securities fell 







$ 7 8 >3°° 

$ 5 Moo 24 

After 1932, the Treasurer simply ceased printing market values in 
his Report. Why should he dwell on Abbot's agony? We hear of 
neither bond nor stock again until the 1935 Report, when they had 
recovered to $136,300 and $79,600 respectively. Enrollments looked as 
bad— or worse, for students make a school. They slipped from 181 


(135 boarders) in 1929-30 to no (71 boarders) in 1933-34, a drop that 
more than halved tuition income because tuition had by then been 
lowered to $1200 to reflect falling prices. Furthermore, 45 of the no 
girls attended on scholarship. Most of the $26,000 set aside to support 
them was income foregone: Abbot's endowed scholarships could pro- 
vide less than $4000 a year. 

How did Abbot Academy manage to keep going? Many private 
schools ceased to exist during the Depression. Others closed for two or 
three years and reopened after the worst was over, often much 
changed. 25 Abbot endured. Deep in its bones was something close to a 
preference for adversity, for situations in which the missionary could 
show her stuff to a soft world. The school had survived the 1850's 
when so many New England academies had shut down for good; it 
had adjusted to turn-of-the-century challenges that finished less re- 
silient institutions. In crucial ways, Abbot emerged from the decade of 
Depression stronger than it was on the eve of the Crash. 

Treasurer Burton Sanderson Flagg was the hero of those first five 
years. A scholarship student and Greek major at Brown University, 
Flagg took up the insurance business in Fitchburg, Massachusetts, after 
graduation but was drawn to Andover in 1901 by Cecil Bancroft's in- 
vitation to teach at Phillips. Once arrived, he decided instead to go 
into business in the town. Not long afterward insurance assistant Flagg 
was partner Flagg of the Smart and Flagg insurance agency, and presi- 
dent of Merrimack Mutual Fire Insurance Company, founded in 1828 
and by 1948 to become one of the largest mutual insurance concerns 
in the United States. Abbot's early fortunes had turned on the school's 
local connections, but Academy and town had grown apart in the 
twenties. Now that Abbot needed all the allies it could find, this Treas- 
urer's status as exemplar of Andover's Yankee aristocracy and his ex- 
perience as top dog in innumerable enterprises were central to Abbot's 

On the eve of the Crash, Burton Flagg probably wielded more 
power in Andover than had any single individual since Samuel Phillips, 
Jr., died in 1802. Simultaneously an insurance agent and company pres- 
ident, Flagg was a (perfectly legal) one-man interlocking directorate— 
and director of several other New England insurance companies as 
well. The Andover Press continued to print all of Abbot's publications, 
and Flagg was on its board. He was as much in demand as Abbot's 
founder, Squire Farrar, for he had Farrar's social conscience, his eye 
for detail and his talent for organization. "He was ambitious, but not 
desiring," says a friend who knew him well. He became director, then 
president of two Andover banks, positions of important responsibility 

248 AGAINST THE TIDE, I 9 I 2 - I 9 5 4 

which earned him only a token salary. Was a new building and better 
site needed for the Savings Bank? Flagg would make sure they were 
obtained in a way that respected the townspeople's interests while it 
advanced those of the Bank, 26 for to Flagg, the businessman who put 
private capital to constructive uses was the cornerstone of American 
society. 27 A good man also owed his time and talent to public and 
charitable institutions. Flagg was a pillar of South Church and clerk of 
the South Parish (until 193 1 a separate corporation with membership 
restricted to male churchgoers). He served for years on the town Fi- 
nance Committee, on the Board of Memorial Hall Library and on the 
School Committee. "He ruled the town," one former day scholar re- 
members; to a Hilltop friend he was "the Squire of Andover." If en- 
vious townsmen occasionally felt that he controlled more than his share 
of local affairs, most were nevertheless grateful for his uses of power. 28 

For all this, Abbot Academy was Flagg's dearest concern, "his 
daughter." A father who loved to see every curl and button in place, 
Flagg had the same stern, doting pride in Abbot that his great friend 
Warren Draper had held; the Drapers had in fact introduced him to 
Abbot when the young Flagg first lived in Andover, years when (ac- 
cording to Frances Flagg Sanborn, '26) "he was like a son to them." 
Like Draper also, and like his more distant predecessor Samuel C. Jack- 
son, Flagg saw himself as a champion of education, who believed that 
the school's mission was complementary to that of the Church. Since 
the Church reached ever fewer young people, the school must do 
more. Flagg was invited to be a Trustee of Andover Newton Theo- 
logical Seminary, an honor Draper would have prized, but he declined 
on the ground that he was too busy with a more urgent concern: the 
schooling of young women. 29 

Burton Flagg and his wife Anne 30 had three daughters of their own 
who came with them to live in Taylor Homestead, the house next 
door to John-Esther Gallery; all three attended Abbot. Responsive to 
Rev. John Phelps Taylor's wishes for the disposition of his family 
home, the Trustees in 1924 granted Taylor's friends, the Flaggs, a 
minimal rent for the brick house; then later, 31 recognizing that this 
"Treasurer" was singly a business manager, securities broker, grounds 
superintendent, and educational planner, all at a minimal salary ($500 
at first, then raised by degrees to $2,500 in 1922), they gave him free 
use of the house during his lifetime. 32 Flagg seemed always to be out 
and around the campus, his tall, stately figure making Jane Carpenter, 
his loyal consultant on all alumnae matters, look like a quick, inquisi- 
tive bird, making scurrying puppies of the students scrambling about 
his hockey field or his skating pond (for he had supervised the build- 



38. Jane B. Carpenter and Burton S. Flagg: A partnership. Photograph 
taken in 1937 by Dorothy Jarvis. 

250 AGAINST THE TIDE, 1912-1954 

ing or rebuilding of every outdoor sports facility at Abbot by 1941). 
When alumnae or parents or potential donors came to visit, Flagg 
was on hand to walk them around. He was a somber, remote man to 
those who knew him only casually outside the Abbot gates, but Abbot 
brought out all that was kind in his character. The school was always 
on his mind: the Chapin boys, Barton Jr. and Melville, rarely heard 
him talk of anything else to their father, who was first clerk, then 
president of the Abbot Board from 1920 to 1952. 33 Recalling his kind- 
ness, Beverly Brooks Floe, '41 says that "we students had this feeling 
of being cherished, like his family, like his own." 

Flagg admired and loved Miss Bailey with a depth of feeling he 
never summoned for any other Abbot principal after her death, and 
she in turn consulted him on everything from rug purchases to salary 
changes. Though she was not good at delegating tasks to her female 
teachers, preferring to attend to them herself, 34 she could leave almost 
anything to her Treasurer. 35 Mr. Flagg noted "a certain masculinity in 
Miss Bailey's mental processes," 36 high praise from a man clearly con- 
scious of his own role as chief male in this female institution. Flagg 
made a point of inviting the Abbot fathers for a round of golf at the 
country club during the Commencement dither, and corresponding at 
length with some of them about matters educational and financial. He 
persuaded the Andover Sportsman's Club to stock Abbot's pond with 
1,000 trout, which were to be fed with 40,000 fresh- water shrimp and 
gratefully caught by Abbot fathers and Andover sportsmen upon ma- 
turity. 37 Each summer he verified his place in the Andover male estab- 
lishment with his week-long house party at Kennebunkport, Maine, 
for a "group of friends who direct the affairs of Andover," 38 as one of 
Flagg's former schoolmates put it, including several bankers, real estate 
men, Phillips Academy masters, the Andover School Superintendent, 
and the Postmaster. 

Indeed, Flagg epitomized the Protestant Yankee spirit in which Ab- 
bot had been founded, infused as he was with its frugality, its serious- 
ness, even at times its missionary righteousness. William Doherty, 
whose large Catholic family had sought its own piece of political and 
financial power in Andover since the first Doherty arrived after the 
Civil war, claims that Flagg and his friends arranged almost everything 
to exclude newcomers, whether from the insurance business or the 
local educational establishment. "He ran the show," Doherty says. "He 
was an aristocratic gentleman who could do no wrong." If "the Irish 
had everything sewed up in Lawrence," Flagg was "the Mayor Daley 
of the old Yankee crowd in Andover." During the Depression, Doherty 
recalls, the jobless turned to Flagg for jobs. Would-be teachers learned 


by the grapevine that they'd have a better chance if they joined South 
Church and bought their insurance at Smart and Flagg, though no 
demonstrable threat was ever made to those who refused such advice. 
Here was a man of power in whose name, inevitably, some things must 
have been said or done which he did not approve. 39 A small insurance 
agent who tried to open accounts for his new clients with the big stock 
companies received refusals and apologies— and later discovered that 
these insurers had quite naturally been protecting their own profitable 
relationship with the Merrimack Mutual. Other banks might fail, but 
Flagg and his fellow Andover Savings directors had friends in the 
Nathaniel and J. P. Stevens textile family who would help keep their 
bank sound. "All legal," Doherty acknowledges. "Any businessman 
would do the same if he could." It was, again, perfectly legal at this 
time, if not commendable, for the Savings Bank loan officers to sug- 
gest to applicants for mortgages that they have their houses insured 
against fire loss with a reliable outfit like Smart and Flagg— but frus- 
trating for the outsider trying to forge for himself the connections 
that allow a business to survive hard times. 40 While the Depression 
deepened and the Dohertys fumed, Flagg continued to build on his 
advantages, certain that what was best in Andover could be preserved 
—including both Abbot Academy and the Merrimack Mutual. His 
local influence and regional connections lent Abbot Academy a legiti- 
macy within the still-conservative town similar to that created by 
Farrar's and Draper's involvement during the nineteenth century. 
Doubters, take note! This is a solid enterprise! As time went on, and 
Flagg's Trusteeship entered its fortieth, then fiftieth year, one can 
wonder if this very confidence did not protect the school overlong 
from realizing the need to adjust to mid-twentieth-century conditions. 
Within Abbot, Treasurer Flagg had been building his power for 
good throughout a full quarter century. He made himself indispensable 
soon after his appointment to the Board in 1906. It was to him that 
many aspiring parents applied during the last years of the Means era, 
when it was difficult for outsiders to know whether Miss Means was at 
Abbot or on leave; it was he who decided for Miss Means how many 
boarders the school could take, for Miss Bailey what special comforts 
old Mrs. Draper needed during her last "days of waiting," 41 and what 
compensation a teacher should receive while recovering from a thyroid 
condition. 42 As the Bailey era progressed, he became a member or ex 
officio participant of every Trustee Standing Committee, and chairman 
of the Committees on Alumnae Relations, on Investments, and on 
Business Policy. By 1947 he was such a fixture that a fellow Trustee 
wrote him after one of the handful of meetings he missed in all his 59 

252 AGA IN ST TH E TI DE, 1912-1954 

years as Treasurer, "I wasn't at all sure that [the meeting J was even 
official." 43 He often presided at Commencement. He took to incorpo- 
rating brief sermons about educational goals into his Treasurer's Re- 
ports. Melville Chapin thinks that Mr. Flagg and Miss Bailey often 
decided ahead of time what these should include, which explains 
the Principal's enthusiastic efforts to follow up on the Treasurer's 
suggestions. 44 

Everything about Abbot interested Flagg. He knew each bush and 
tree on the grounds by heart. When the Cedar Apple Rust appeared 
on Abbot's apples he made sure future cedar seedlings were planted 
the necessary iooo feet away from the orchard. He instructed the 
Trustees on the tendency of the aphis insect to exude from two tiny 
tubes on its back a honeydew which in dry weather formed an ideal 
culture for black-leaf mildew, and reported that he had brought the 
situation fully under control by ordering applications of the proper 
amount of oils and Black Leaf 40 to the affected trees. 45 He warned the 
Trustees of the hazards presented by curling irons in dormitories. 46 He 
supervised the installation of sprinkler systems to bring all buildings in 
line with the fire code. Wishing the students to learn modern business 
methods, he set up an internal "bank" that helped Abbot girls balance 
their own checkbooks until the school changed to a simple $2.00 
allowance system after Miss Bailey died. 

Reared to understand the intricacies of farmwork by his father, 
Flagg had profound respect for the man who knew trees, or lawns, or 
buildings, or dam construction. He was even known to change his 
mind when Michael Scannell questioned one of his practical decisions. 
His personal concern for each man on the grounds staff was recipro- 
cated by a loyalty so great as to obscure certain perennial problems, 
such as low wages and the complete lack of a staff pension plan. 47 
Paternalistic to the last, Flagg wished to be utterly fair, to consult all 
interested parties in every decision, but he always preferred to take 
care of specific needs as they arose rather than setting up a mecha- 
nistic system; thus, while annual grants were made to a few retirees 
like the Misses Kelsey and Mason, he long resisted formal retirement 
provisions for the faculty too, preferring to pay endless nursing home 
and insurance bills for ancient ladies rather than grant them a steady 
sum to use or abuse as they would. 

Flagg was always looking for ways to provide Abbot the special 
treats with which any father loves to surprise his child. Because he 
watched every penny, there was usually some small reserve available 
from school funds. Was a diving platform needed for the Abbot pond? 
Too frivolous for a school budget, perhaps, but Flagg would have it 


constructed himself. In 1933 he gave over to the school the lounge and 
kitchenette above his garage where his daughters had entertained their 
friends. Teachers could smoke there (and nowhere else, ruled Miss 
Bailey); Seniors were allowed to use it on Saturdays; fathers compared 
cigars and daughters there at Commencement time. He thought of 
everything: an extra draft of expense money for Constance Chipman 
when she was delayed in Cleveland, a carnation for each teacher at the 
annual Christmas dinner, two tons each of bone meal and sheep 
manure to give newly planted saplings exactly the boost needed for 
their first summer at Abbot, 48 a school advertising policy based on pre- 
cise reports of magazine readership, and so on and so on. 

It was Flagg who had opened Abbot's drive for a permanent endow- 
ment in 19 10 with a special appeal to alumnae. Painstakingly he built 
Abbot's assets from the $61,400 of securities and deposits in the vault 
when he arrived to the $400,000 portfolio of conservative investments 
with which Abbot greeted the Depression. 49 He watched the market, 
bought and sold, always building capital. Trustee John Alden (1900- 
16) confided to his wife that his young colleague was "the best man 
I know with whom to advise on matters of investment." 50 Flagg took 
it on himself to buy $10,000 worth of bonds from the Phillips Trustees 
as "an act of friendship and cooperation" during the building of Bishop 
Hall, and like so many similar acts, this one paid a faithful 4 percent. 51 
He set up a bequest program that brought $90,000 from the Antoinette 
Hall Taylor estate in 1925. He and the Trustees offered annuities to 
alumnae, and Mary Byers Smith advertised them with characteristic 
directness in the Bulletin, asking, "Why not have the fun of giving 
before you are dead?" 52 His name was caution (what else would you 
do with $20,000 of new contributions to an Abbot fund drive but de- 
posit them in sixteen different savings banks?), 53 and those cautious 
D.O.G.'s who wished their surplus funds to go far for education would 
entrust them to such a Treasurer. Throughout the twenties, Flagg re- 
minded Trustees and alumnae of the tax benefits that would accrue to 
donors who traded large donations for annuities or gave Abbot high 
value stocks to sell. Thus when the Crash descended, Abbot was in a 
far stronger financial condition than many private schools. 

Abbot Pulls Through 

The Depression made for tough going, but most of Abbot's invest- 
ments continued to pay dividends amounting to over $4,000 annually 
throughout the lean years. A few concerns postponed principal pay- 

254 AGAINST THE TIDE, 1 9 I 2 — I 9 5 4 

merits on their bonds, 54 yet even these finally did deliver after the 
worst was over. 55 Abbot's rental income, the hedge that Flagg built, 
proved more precarious than its endowment income. Flagg's prudent 
program to purchase all the houses on the Abbot Street border of the 
campus backfired when tenants began vacating them for cheaper hous- 
ing during the Depression. Taxes must be paid whether or not the 
houses were full; worst of all, the "cottages," emptied of students 
when enrollments dropped, became taxable rental property for which 
tenants could not be found. Then, as the securities market flattened 
out and Roosevelt took over the Presidency, Flagg deposited ever 
more of the school's assets in local and nearby savings banks ($147,000 
in 1932 and $185,300 in 1933). Andover Savings Bank and the Charles- 
town Five might yet escape the reach of That Man in the White 
House. 56 

All this time, buildings must be heated, students must be fed, taught, 
and nursed when sick, and faculty must either be paid or dismissed. 
These were the days when men waited at dawn near the post office for 
the WPA recruiter to hire them, and if he refused them, waited all day 
on the curb for the wagons to rumble in from the countryside with a 
cabbage for each destitute family. Flagg cut costs wherever he could. 
Unlike many schools whose teachers worked gratefully for room and 
board, however, Abbot resisted going backward on salary payments as 
long as possible. Much progress had been made toward adequate 
teacher compensation during the twenties: prodded by Miss Bailey, the 
Trustees had brought the average salary, $2412 plus room and board 
in 1928, to well above both the median for girls' schools and the $2378 
average (1928 figures) for public high school teachers in large towns 
and cities, 57 a real accomplishment in spite of anomalies that turned on 
the world's calculation of what women will put up with (Mr. Howe 
got $4000 and an Abbot-owned house for part-time work, for ex- 
ample). As prices fell, teachers were willing to accept a 10 percent 
salary cut in 1932 and another in 1933, but no teacher was dismissed 
without clear cause. Though the grounds crew was reduced and all 
but emergency maintenance jobs were suspended for two years, Flagg 
made sure to look for the very workers he had had to lay off when- 
ever there were special tasks requiring extra labor. 

Flagg felt Abbot would do best to take care of its own rather than 
accepting government help. When federal unemployment and social 
security programs appeared, Flagg concluded that they were no more 
than "rackets" which the lazy exploited at the expense of the indus- 
trious 58 and which only impeded Abbot's efforts to make a fair income. 


To his credit, however, he dispassionately informed the Trustees of 
every state or federal government action that might affect their school, 
cooperated with the NRA, and put to work two archivists assigned to 
Abbot by the Work Progress Administration (one of them an unem- 
ployed minister). Thus duty overcame his recorded distaste for the 
American body politic's "insatiable desire to settle all economic ills by 
legislation." 59 He also did his best to warn the Trustees of impending 
changes in tax exemption clauses so that they could lean on friends in 
the State House or the Town Hall to forestall still further government 
encroachment on Abbot's independence. 60 Throughout its history, the 
pinchpenny school had relied on none but itself and its own closest 
friends. Hard times were no excuse for giving in now. 

The Trustees' strategy for survival was to eschew extreme solutions 
and rely on Abbot's proven worth to attract students. "We believe," 
wrote Flagg in December 193 3, 61 "that our budgetary plan for this 
year tends to preserve the essential elements of the school intact." Far 
from keeping girls at any cost, Miss Bailey and her faculty continued 
to dismiss unruly or lazy students just as though their tuition payments 
did not matter. She knew the school would be several short of full en- 
rollment for 1930-31, but this inhibited her not a bit when two girls 
left for P.A. one May night after tucking dummies into their beds, 
and another, a Student Council member, spent the night in New Haven 
with a Yale man. Five more were ousted the following spring for "per- 
sistent disobedience," and six underclassmen were invited to leave 
after Commencement for failing to prepare their classes properly. 62 
Trustees and Principal flatly refused to "buy" enrollees, as so many 
schools were doing, by offering the shopping applicant a year's educa- 
tion for $100 less than whatever the tuition quoted her at school Y or 
school Z. "We will not bargain," said Flagg. 63 The $1200 tuition was 
to remain the target figure for all applicants. Scholarships based on 
need the Trustees would continue to offer, but never would they par- 
ticipate in the manic, unethical undercutting that now made chaos of 
the once orderly private-school market. 

Yet for all his sang-froid, Flagg insisted that "an unusual and well- 
organized effort must be made to prevent the school from closing." 64 
The Trustees stepped up advertising. They engaged first the capable 
Mildred Winship, then Trustee Constance Chipman, as their "field 
representative" to organize alumna meetings all over the Northeast. 
They hired a professional field recruiter to tap promising veins in the 
Midwest and to be paid per capita for every student who matriculated 
by her agency. Most important, they enlisted alumnae help in finding 

256 AGAINST THE TIDE, 1912-1954 

new students for Abbot. All the lines cast out in preparation for the 
Centennial were baited again with appeals to alumnae energy: their 
banks might have failed, but their daughters or their friends' daughters 
could still come to Abbot on large scholarships. 65 Miss Bailey set up 
"visiting days," when any alumna or prospective parent might inspect 
the school. Constance Chipman cajoled Abbot Club members and the 
guests at "Abbot teas" to recruit students— almost any student. Of all 
the three measures taken, this alumnae work proved most effective. 
The vaunted professional recruiter plied the coffee circuit around Chi- 
cago for two years and came up with exactly one applicant; advertise- 
ments brought a handful more; all the rest enrolled because friends, 
relatives, or grade school teachers had recommended Abbot. 

Just enough students came to keep Abbot going— but only if they 
paid their bills. Near-ful 1 schools were foundering because the tuition 
checks never arrived: many Abbot parents delayed their payments for 
months or years. Treasurer Flagg wrote to each one, gently prodding. 
He was especially patient with the parents of returning students or 
with old Abbot families to whom he and the school felt committed, 
and they usually responded with equal good will, in a few cases setting 
up a payment schedule that eventually reimbursed Abbot for the 
scholarships the Trustees had granted their daughters as well as for 
tuition defaulted. The character of Abbot's clientele was a crucial 
factor in the school's successful journey through the Depression. The 
majority of fathers were salaried professionals, local businessmen 
whose custom was not wiped out by ticker tape transactions in New 
York or Chicago, or physicians or lawyers with a localized practice. 66 
Abbot's fund-raisers might wish this were otherwise in better times, 
but in the Depression years a stable clientele of relatively modest 
means proved to be the school's salvation. Of the forty-three schools 
whose situation seemed most comparable to Abbot's, only five reached 
1933 with a lower percentage of enrollment change than Abbot could 
boast. 67 That was the year when hundreds of private schools simply 
closed down. 68 

Within, the school was as it had always been in times of crisis: 
braced and bracing, reassured by the confluence of its own sober ideals 
and the world's necessities. Miss Bailey followed her over-full days of 
making ends meet with night correspondence for the Headmistresses 
Association Emergency Teachers Unemployment Committee, which 
she chaired. Teachers took on extra work without complaint; students 
again cleaned corridors and bathrooms where maids had once waited 
upon young ladies' wishes. Because the Abbot Family had shrunk, there 



39. Cooking outdoors in the Grove, 1933. Egan Photo Service. 

was an intimacy that had been lacking in the twenties: no snobbery, 
few cliques, recalls Abby Castle Kemper, '31— the school was simply 
too small to tolerate serious divisions. Off-campus excursions were few; 
the clutch of Boston Symphony-goers diminished from seven to five to 
three a week; the horseback riding contingent shrank by two thirds. 
Only twenty-eight of forty-six Seniors could afford to go to Intervale 
in 1933, that "year of limitations." 69 Since you could not escape, you 
made your fun at the school— and you used its opportunities to ad- 
vance newly serious purposes of your own. Hemlines dropped again, 
curling irons were put away. Almost every older student planned on 
further education: the proud advocates of the Academic Course could 
not turn back the enthusiasm for precollege training that had swept 
through middle-class America on a wave of anxiety about employ- 
ment, for college entrance was becoming increasingly competitive. 70 
Academic Course students were now "the dumbbells," Abby Kemper 
remembers, though she was happy enough to be one of them. It 
seemed an age since Ruth Newcomb and several of her contempo- 
raries had come to Abbot in 1908 for a leisurely two years after gradu- 
ation from excellent high schools. Late in 1932 the Trustees planned a 
modernized catalogue offering a new two-year "graduate course," but 

258 AGAINST TH E TIDE, I912-I954 

so few students enrolled in it that ten months later Miss Bailey asked 
the Trustees to consider dropping the Academic Course altogether. 
The following autumn only eight Academic Seniors enrolled out of a 
class of fifty-six students. 

"The life of the school is free and happy," promised the catalogue 
after 1933. Yet over and over, Principal's Reports and alumnae recol- 
lections mention the seriousness and determination that predominated 
among Depression-era students. In their yearbook photographs the 
Seniors looked forty years old. "The relations between students and 
teachers are sympathetic and understanding," the new catalogue went 
on. With fewer students there could be more individual attention than 
ever. Indeed, one of Abbot's attractions was its low pupil-teacher ratio 
at a time when public high-school enrollments had quite suddenly 
soared (17 percent between 1930 and 1932), and the average teacher 
taught more than thirty-five students in each class— for here, too, edu- 
cation was preferable to unemployment. 71 It cannot be said that the 
real Abbot fully matched the catalogue description, however. Most of 
the teachers were aging along with their Principal. "Nearly all octo- 
genarians," Mrs. Kemper exclaims with mild exaggeration. Except for 
Mary Carpenter— "she had a heart," says Jane Sullivan, '31, "and in my 
day there weren't many who had a heart"— there were few to overcome 
the formality that seems to have prevailed between the young and the 
elderly at this time. 72 The Principal set the tone by requiring every 
boarder personally to give her "Good morning" at breakfast time. "It 
was very rigid," Abby Kemper recalls; she was scolded by a Senior 
for saying "hello" to Miss Bailey instead of "good afternoon." Even 
teachers such as Katherine Kelsey, whose kindness and pedagogical 
skill only increased with her long experience, were ladies first, friends 
long afterward. 

Mrs. Chipman brought back messages from loyal alumnae who were 
sure their recruiting would be more successful if only Abbot were not 
so old-fashioned. A few changes were made. The traditional full page 
of directions for student dress disappeared in the 1933-34 catalogue, 
to be replaced after 1934 by two short sentences beginning "students 
dress simply . . ." Precisely because the girls— and American society at 
large— had left behind the madness of the twenties, Miss Bailey was 
willing to lower Abbot's walls here and there, allowing boy-girl danc- 
ing in the Recreation Room during the calling hour, and other small 
freedoms. She eased the ancient Sunday regimen a bit by ordering the 
gates to the campus opened, and permitting inter-room visiting, out- 
door walks, frivolous reading, occasional visits from parents, even 


studying, in the afternoon. She granted the Student Council's request 
for Seniors to be allowed to go on Wednesdays in pairs to Boston once 
more, as they had in Miss Means's day. But chaperones made sure no 
dancing couple indulged in torso contact; the Senior privileges were 
soon abused (said Miss Bailey) and rescinded; 73 and Sundays were still 
largely consumed by solemn occasions. 

In the larger educational world, this was a time of daring experi- 
ment—Black Mountain College and coeducational Putney School were 
founded the very year that Miss Bailey was tightening the Senior rules 
again— and Abbot appeared staid indeed. Midwestern alumnae "wish 
we would meet the competition by presenting new subjects in the ad- 
vanced Academic course," reported Mrs. Chipman. 74 Both Principal 
and Treasurer exerted genuine leadership to move Abbot off academic 
dead center. Miss Bailey urged teachers to try some of the new teach- 
ing methods she had learned about at meetings of the Progressive Edu- 
cation Association. Flagg proposed applying business principles to help 
teachers "broaden their educational horizons" through intensive dis- 
cussion within faculty meetings, through visits to other schools "which 
may help to dislodge any one particular . . . educational line of think- 
ing" among the faculty, and through systematic connections between 
extracurricular activities and class work, an educational technique 
"thoroughly practised in business." 75 

There is no sign that these efforts changed minds already made up 
about education. Yet good things continued, for neither Ruth Baker's 
nor "Mother Chick's" teaching respected cliches about youth and age; 
Dorothy Hopkins substituted imagination for library acquisition; and 
others took advantage of small classes to move faster or more sensitive- 
ly through academic work. Helen Bean's history students wrote papers 
on "The Child Labor Amendment," or "The Work of the C.C.C." in 
the fall of 1933. Miss Bailey's Ethics class asked how women could 
improve working conditions and prisons, and outlined the roles they 
might effectively play in politics and industry. In 1934 Miss Bailey and 
a Trustee instituted a business course which immediately became a 
popular elective. Alice Sweeney's efforts in the fall of 1935 to update 
the English curriculum matched the energy brought earlier to the 
Mathematics Department by young Esther Comegys, M.A. Miss Bailey 
engaged Miss Comegys for the new position of Academic Dean in 
1932, plucking her from her doctoral studies at RadclirTe and her 
teaching job at Simmons College to take over much of the work Miss 
Mason and Miss Kelsey had together done until their retirement in 
1932. Thus the majority of the faculty might be set in their ways, but 

260 AGAINST THE TIDE, I 9 I 2 — I 9 5 4 

wrinkles appeared now and then on the smoothest surfaces, providing 
a measure of traction for venturesome young minds. 

A Sober Recovery 

We think of the year 1930 as the norm for Abbot, Flagg told the 
Trustees in the gloom of winter 1934, when it looked as though an- 
other year like 1933-34 would finish Abbot off. Yet "our charts indicate 
that it has been one hundred years since 1930." 76 But at the very same 
Trustees' meeting, Mrs. Chipman reported more interest in Abbot than 
she had encountered for years. That spring applications began to rise 
again at last. One hundred and thirty-five students registered for 1934— 
35, including forty two day scholars, the largest number since 191 5. 
The business index no sooner began to climb than Flagg and Bailey 
began plotting new building projects— or, rather, replotting the ones 
left in limbo in 1930. One of the two salary cuts was restored for 1934— 
35, and restoration of the second was planned for 1935-36. Abbot had 
a future. 

Yet that future would be shaped for years to come by the worst 
period of the Depression. It was more than a test of Abbot's survival 
value; like the World War era, it was a time of rededication to old 
ideals. The mood of Miss Bailey's Easter address of 1932 echoed that 
of her 19 1 8 speeches, though she fashioned her lesson from contem- 
porary materials: 

The responsibility of world reconstruction lies on our 
generation. As the Crucifixion showed us the way, so will the 
kidnapping of the Lindbergh baby bring us to our senses. 77 

A 1932 graduate today looks back approvingly at the fit between 
Abbot's ways and the demands of a tough world. "Part of the plan," 
she writes, "was to accustom us to the fact that life requires one to 
recognize and accept discipline if one is to survive." 78 Abbot's tradi- 
tional style suited the times. 

There was also a new recognition that Abbot would have to deserve 
whatever future it earned, and a healthy sense of uncertainty. The 
school's determination to enlarge its constituency did not disappear 
with the passing of the crisis; ("Minneapolis and Duluth were new ter- 
ritory," reported Mrs. Chipman in December of 1935, "and very 
promising.") 79 Miss Bailey herself articulated a courageous realism 
about things to come in a speech to the Wellesley alumnae. She was 
now a trustee of her old college, but she declined the privilege of 


omniscience. "All that we know of the world our students are to 
meet is that we know nothing of it," she said. "The only thing they 
have to expect is the unexpected." Given this, she went on, a young 
woman required more than ever a deen sense of social responsibility, 
excellent health, intellectual readiness, and, interestingly, a capacity 
for "ease, dignity and freedom in her contact with young men." 80 
Abbot Academy would never again take itself for granted. 

None of Bertha Bailev's faculty and students realized how quickly 
the unexpected would storm the school. On November 16, 1935, Miss 
Bailey died of pneumonia while visiting relatives in New York State. 
Abbot was stunned. "She had been so well-" remembers an alumna. 
She was only sixty-nine years old! One feels that the Abbot Family 
had expected this mother to go on forever. She had been so long at 
Abbot that large numbers of "her" alumnae were sending their daugh- 
ters to be "her 1 ' students, and Phillips alumni who had felt her judg- 
mental glare during her first few years as guardian of the virgin gates 
came to her quaking with anxious memories when presenting their 
daughters for admission. 81 Only a few people knew that she had had 
diabetes for some time, or realized how heavily the four lean years had 
taxed her. Miss Bailev herself had known she must rest a while. Secret- 
ly, she arranged with the Trustees for a seven-month leave with full 
salary, to begin in mid-fall of 1935 after school was under way, and 
end before Commencement. She dared not stay away longer— dared 
not even tell most of Abbot she was leaving— for fear of setting back 
the Academy's precarious recovery. The farewell party seemed barely 
over when the bad news came. "A tremendous shock, an overpowering 
sorrow, has come to Abbot Academy that will be felt round the 
world." The November Bulletin stopped press to insert this announce- 
ment of her death. Tributes to her deluged the Courant editors. A 
Senior remembered how "freely and joyously" she lived under Miss 
Bailey's guidance because of her Principal's faith in "the goodness of 
life." 82 Madame Marie Craig, French teacher, wrote that "the very 
center of our lives" was gone, 83 and a seventy-year old alumna turned 
her thoughts to poetry: 

Dear heart— suddenly still— 

Your book of life was beautifully written. 

Stinging the tears which fill 

Our eyes, 

Against our will they flow 

Soon, all too soon, the story's ended, 

Just in life's afternoon. 

Reverently the pages we retrace. 84 

262 AGAINST THE TIDE, 1912-1954 

There was only one thing to be thankful for: the Trustees and Miss 
Bailey had provided for her absence. Dean Comegys had already 
agreed to serve as Acting Principal for the year. Registrar Fanny Jencks, 
who had been Miss Bailey's assistant and secretary for years, was ready 
to supervise dormitory life and other nonacademic activities. Seasoned 
by past emergencies, Abbot set itself to get on without Bertha Bailey. 

It would be difficult at times, but on the whole, the rest of the year 
went smoothly. The faculty decided to present the play they had been 
rehearsing when Miss Bailey died; the Christmas service, the Intervale 
trip, the "corridor stunts," the class picnics, the weekly lectures and 
daily classes— all were carried on as before. "Miss Bailey planned the 
calendar very carefully before she left," wrote Esther Comegys to 
the Trustees. "The older girls have felt the loss very keenly," she 
went on; the Senior leaders are still finding their feet, and "the school 
as a whole seems young and noisy," 85 but it survives. 

The sudden change impelled the Trustees to take stock. What kind 
of school should Abbot become? Where should they look for a new 
principal? By March both questions had become urgent. The retire- 
ment for health or personal reasons of three elderly teachers and the 
firm forced resignation of a fourth made it seem as though Miss 
Bailey's Abbot was quietly folding up. Esther Comegys was not a 
serious candidate for Miss Bailey's successor. She was functioning 
more as a superconscientious Dean than as a Principal-proper— and in 
any case, she was to leave Abbot in June for an instructorship at Bryn 
Mawr, where she would continue work on her doctorate. No other 
obvious Abbot-connected candidates came to mind. Of the several 
outside-Abbot women whom Constance Chipman was sent to inter- 
view, only the principal of an Illinois college seemed just right, but 
she found the offered salary too low and, worse, found Abbot's his- 
tory uninteresting— an unforgivable sin in Mrs. Chipman's eyes. The 
well seemed dry. 

Then, from the least expected direction, word reached north to the 
Trustees of a young English professor and Dean at Hollins College, 
Virginia, who might possibly be interested in a New England school. 
Marguerite Hearsey had talked to the Abbot family about the ad- 
vantages of Hollins in the winter of 1933 when her college was hun- 
gering for applicants. Even then both sides were impressed, and since 
that first visit the grapevine had brought other news of her. Abby 
Castle Kemper, '31, had gone from Abbot to Hollins, and found Miss 
Hearsey a wonderfully stimulating teacher as well as a "manager" 
who had ideas for every occasion— with one left over to create the 
next occasion. "She was just born to run a place," A4rs. Kemper re- 


members. When the Hollins presidency fell vacant and the college 
Trustees chose an older woman, not a few students and faculty there 
wished Marguerite Hearsey had been named instead. 86 She was a true 
scholar, with a Radcliffe M.A., a Yale Ph.D., and a soon-to-be-pub- 
lished thesis on Thomas Sackville's Complaint of Henry Duke of Buck- 
ingham. She had studied abroad and had taught at Wellesley and Bryn 
Mawr. She knew both the Northeast and the Upper South and might 
thus realize Abbot's aspirations as a national school. The Trustees sent 
Constance Chipman to meet her, instructing her to discern how Miss 
Hearsey would appear to the faculty, to the alumnae, and to the 
townspeople of Andover. 87 (Did the students' opinion not count?) 
Mrs. Chipman, entirely satisfied, telegraphed Board President Chapin 
that the candidate should be invited to visit Abbot forthwith. At a 
special Trustees meeting on April 8, 1936, Marguerite Hearsey was 
appointed bv unanimous vote Abbot's fourteenth principal, and a new 
age began. 

Singular Wfomen 

. . . Above all, intelligence. 

—Marguerite Hearsey to opening meeting of 

Student Council, September 1941 and 1942 

Marguerite Hearsey was a scholar. She came to Abbot, she says, be- 
cause the years between fourteen and eighteen are critical and exciting 
in a young woman's intellectual and personal development. 1 She could 
easily have stayed on at Hollins College; she had already turned down 
a department chairmanship at another woman's college. In spite of 
the press of able academics seeking jobs in 1936, she could almost 
surely have returned to Bryn Mawr or Wellesley, for her superiors 
in both colleges had hated to lose her when she moved on from her 
instructorships, first to her doctoral studies, then to her full profes- 
sorship at Hollins. But this academic was also an adventurer, who 
had loved equally the detail work of her deanship and the rich contact 
with students afforded by administrative work in a small college, and 
she knew that at age forty-three she was ready to "run a place," ready 
to pour all her energies and feelings into a single institution. No one 
could fail to notice this emotional vitality, or her big-bone physical 
health, or her warm capacity for taking others as seriously as she took 
herself. 2 

Her particular scholarly interests also impelled her toward Abbot. 
She had a passion for history, and Abbot had plenty of it. She was 
especially happy to meet Burton Flagg, who had lived through so 
much of Abbot's history himself; her first request of Abbot after she 
was hired in the spring of 1936 was addressed to him: would he send 
her any and all historical material that could be safely mailed to Vir- 
ginia? Delighted, he replied. Making her maiden address to alumnae 
in June 1936, she invoked first Philena McKeen and Bertha Bailey, 
then Christopher Marlowe of the English Renaissance; behind this 
speech and many later ones is a woman who has consciously stepped 
in to advance a unique cultural tradition. Finally, she was, like all of 
Abbot's founders, a Christian who sought the meaning of her own 
work in the larger social mission of Christianity. Abbot was congenial 



40. Miss Hearsey greeting dancers at the Senior Prom, 1941. 

266 AGAINST THE TIDE, I 9 I 2 — I 9 5 4 

to such a "consecrated soul," as the Treasurer would term the Prin- 
cipal at her retirement in 1955. Jesus was to her above all a human being 
of surpassing courage whose historical reality could speak worlds to 
young people, given a scholarly interpreter and an articulate voice. 3 

She seemed almost too good to be true. When they learned of Miss 
Hearsey's appointment, older alumnae who had despaired at Miss 
Bailey's death— including the entire Fiftieth Reunion class— happily 
predicted a return to the intellectual vitality of the McKeen period. 4 
Another alumna saw promising analogies between Miss Hearsey and 
Miss Means. The graduates who had been pushing their school to join 
the twentieth century were thrilled to hear of Miss Hearsey's varied 
experience, her "wise enthusiasms," and her broad interest in contem- 
porary affairs. 5 If a few of Abbot's own faculty, still grieving over 
Bertha Bailey, could not bring themselves to wish success for Miss 
Bailey's successor, 6 most expectations for the new Principal were in- 
credibly high. 

Moving to the school in July of 1936, Miss Hearsey set herself at 
once to fulfill them. She began carefully. She was, it seems, the only 
person around Abbot who understood her limitations. Knowing per- 
haps her own tendency to be swept into the emotional tangles of a 
small academic community 7 , knowing certainly that all good adminis- 
trators require some minimum of distance from their charges, she 
had specially requested that the Trustees arrange for her to live 
in an apartment or house of her own outside Draper Hall, where Ab- 
bot principals since 1890 had lived surrounded by students. Trustee 
Mira Wilson, Principal of Northfield School, gave her experienced sup- 
port to this plan, and the Board agreed to fix up Sunset Cottage for 
Miss Hearsey's use. Before school began in September, she was wel- 
coming teachers into her new home with a gentle hospitality absorbed 
from her nine years at Hollins; students and alumnae would soon fol- 
low. New England visibly melted when it crossed Virginia's threshold. 
Marguerite Hearsey understood also that one woman cannot do every- 
thing. Far more readily than Miss Bailey had done, she delegated tasks 
to others, holding the college admissions and household supervisory 
work just long enough to understand it and then pointedly handing 
it on. 7 

Almost immediately, Alice Sweeney became Miss Hearsey's indis- 
pensable colleague, to whom she would soon assign college admissions 
responsibility, the Senior English courses, and, in addition, the crucial 
post of Director of Studies. The two women were about the same age, 
but while Miss Hearsey was always somewhat of an outsider to And- 
over town, 8 Alice Sweeney had lived in the Lawrence-Andover- 


Methuen community for most of her life, and had been watching Ab- 
bot women's interchanges with outside-Abbot realities for twenty-five 
years as student, townswoman, occasional teacher, and alumna. Her 
roots went deep in the Merrimack valley: her grandfather had helped 
to build the great dam that would turn thousands of spindles, power 
the cotton looms, and create a city. He also made the family fortune. 
His bosses delayed giving him his wages for a full year, and after living 
in squalid poverty beside his fellow Irish laborers, he suddenly had 
money enough to buy land on the North bank of the Merrimack 
River, which no one then seemed to want. The next generation of 
Sweeneys were local public school teachers and newspaper publishers 
and politicians; John P. Sweeney, father of Alice, Nora, Mary, Louise, 
and Arthur Sweeney, was a lawyer— and a Protestant, for the Sweeneys 
left Catholicism without abandoning their Catholic friends, or their 
catholic sympathies, or their interest in all who struggle upward. Alice 
Sweeney had gone happily enough to the Methuen high school before 
following her sisters to Abbot. Secure in her local "place," content to 
have lived most of her life with her beloved sisters, Alice combined 
a comfortable, almost aristocratic sense of family importance with an 
entire lack of pretentiousness. 9 It was a steady vantage point. 

And her sight grew keener with years: Miss Sweeney accumulated 
an extraordinary sense of the relatedness of things, a capacity for ab- 
sorbing the unexpected while respecting the givens of any situation. 
This was in character with Abbot Academv at its historic best. Not 
so much in character was a sense of humor with which she could as 
readily make sport of herself as of the world in general. A superb 
teacher, she must have known how good she was, for she never needed 
to intrude herself on her students' aspirations, nor did she spare them 
from their failures in search of gratitude. To Miss Sweeney, it could 
not be kind to be less than honest. Parents were doubtless surprised 

the first time they learned from one of her Dean's letters that " 

has less than the average equipment for the grade in which she is 

placed," or that " tends to substitute efficiency for thought." 10 

She was just as direct with students in class. When one of them did 
well, a "Well done" from Miss Sweeney struck home. Admiring, many 
Abbot colleagues absorbed these high and frank academic expecta- 
tions much as Miss Sweeney had nourished herself on the qualities 
Rebekah Chickering so abundantly possessed. As a practical matter, 
Alice Sweeney's skill in taking care of the home front was invaluable 
during Miss Hearsey's many duties away from the school, for the 
Principal's reputation and experience were soon in demand at meetings 
and working committees of the Headmistresses Association; the newer 


AGAINST THE TIDE, I 9 I 2 - I 9 5 4 

41. Miss Sweeney greeting dancers at the Senior Prom, 1941, 


NAPSG (National Association of Principals of Schools for Girls), 
which she served as both director and President; boards of trustees 
throughout New England; even as judge at Phillips Exeter Academy 
Public Speaking Contests. 11 Both Town and Hill were reassured by 
Miss Sweeney's pervasive presence. 12 The two women's collaboration 
proved as successful for Abbot as that of the McKeen sisters, for this 
generous and competent woman made an ideal temperamental com- 
plement for her Principal. Supported by Alice Sweeney's capacity for 
objectivity, Miss Hearsey's ardent identification of self with school 
could almost always be a source of energy for Abbot rather than a 
weakness. 13 Miss Hearsey's own estimate of Alice Sweeney? "A great 
person. I don't know what I would have done without her." 

Miss Sweeney, Burton Flagg, Trustee President Barton Chapin, and 
several other powers from the Andover community were immediately 
helpful in arranging a reception, so that 800 alumnae, townspeople, and 
Phillips Academy faculty could meet the new Principal. The party 
confirmed Abbot's symbiosis with the town, as expected, but it was 
especially symbolic of Miss Hearsey's openness and cordiality toward 
the men— if not the boys— of the Hilltop. Before long, Alan Blackmer 
and his wife had dined at Sunset. Blackmer was already Chairman of 
the Phillips English Department and would soon be Dean of the Fac- 
ulty; this initiative opened a social interchange that each faculty found 
welcome, and Blackmer began to feel something more than the "con- 
descension towards the school at the foot of the Hill" 14 which had been 
most Phillips teachers' stance in Miss Bailey's day. Never again would 
an Abbot principal dig such chasms between Abbot and Phillips as 
did Bertha Bailey. With many other Phillips faculty, the Blackmers 
sent their daughter to Abbot. After the War, Headmaster John M. 
Kemper did likewise, and called Miss Hearsey "Peggy." For her part, 
Marguerite Hearsey openly enjoyed men's colleagueship, and she ap- 
proached Stearns, Fuess, and Kemper as friends, inviting them to speak 
at Sunday night Vespers in successive years. In fact, during nineteen 
years of Sunday nights, women would come from the outside to speak 
on only six occasions; not once would a woman give the Commence- 
ment Address. Thus men confirmed the value of this female institution 
from a distance, much as they had in the McKeen years. For his part, 
Fuess renewed Stearns's invitation— rejected by Abbot from 191 2 on- 
to attend Sunday services in the Phillips Chapel, and Miss Hearsey 
took him up on it for a few Sundays each year. 

Of all her male co-workers, the closest was the Board President, 
Barton Chapin, who greatly admired her and strove to bring her many 
plans to fruition. Flagg remained official "adviser-in-chief." 15 Miss 

27O AGAINST THE TIDE, I912-1954 

Hearsey drew gratefully on his experience, and before acting on any 
idea that cost money, made certain that he was sympathetic to it. 16 
She found that his sense of humor resonated happily with her own, 
and the two became good friends. However, she listened less to his 
day-to-day advice as he grew older and gave ever more of it: an 
administrative colleague remembers often seeing her holding the tele- 
phone with one hand and writing parent letters with the other, while 
the Treasurer went on and on. 17 She did accept the Flagg tradition 
that the parent who pays the bills is a school's formal client; for fifteen 
years all Miss Hearsey's and Miss Sweeney's student report letters were 
written to the fathers. This practice ended only after mothers pro- 
tested ("This is the second time you have sent a letter to me which 
is not addressed to me except on the envelope," wrote one divorced 
mother in 1949, returning the letter). Occasionally after 1950— for 
fun and for the fathers' sakes— a letter like this from Miss Hearsey 
arrived home: 

My dear Mr. and Mrs. 

I rather wish that we could send you 's mid-year grades 

in the form of a stock market report because it would sound 
so spectacular to be able to say— "History up, 18 points . . ." 18 

At the same time, Miss Hearsey encouraged women's help, includ- 
ing that of the female Trustees. Miss Bailey's penchant for stocking 
the Board with Wellesley presidents and deans would be a congenial 
tradition to Miss Hearsey, and the various alumna Trustees of the peri- 
od were workhorses whose energy matched the Principal's. Marguerite 
Hearsey unabashedly asked for a formal vote in all Board delibera- 
tions and a place on three major committees, and got them. Already, 
a few of the older faculty were finding her overassertive once she had 
decided on a given course of action— for this neophyte Principal was 
concerned with the details of departmental organization and teaching 
as Miss Bailey had never been— but Trustees expect to be pushed while 
decisions are still making, and the Board welcomed its Principal's 
drive. 19 

Trustees and teachers waited eagerly to see how this educator so 
knowledgeable about college study would assess the Abbot curriculum. 
It was reassuring to learn that she found it good. "She would not en- 
gage in fads," her endorsers from RadclifTe had written, and while 
she carefully kept both the faculty and the Board in touch with 
developments in the larger world of education, her chief faith was in 
teachers, not in programs. Within her first two years, she had chosen 


eleven new ones, including Isabel Hancock, a Hollins alumna who had 
an M.A. from the University of Virginia, and Eleanor Tucker with 
a B.A. and M.A. from Smith college and two years' experience as an 
instructor of chemistry there, to strengthen Abbot mathematics and 
chemistry. The basic College Preparatory requirements stood pat, 
dictated largely by the Northeastern private colleges: 

3 years of English 

5 years of languages, (including 2 or 3 of Latin) 

2 or 3 years of Mathematics 

1 year of Science 

1 year of History 

College Preparatory students must take at least four courses a term, 
including electives, and must also take 

Physical Education (3 to 4 afternoons a week) 
All-school Choral class (2 hours a week) 
Bible (one hour a week) 

The Trustees added the course in business principles that Miss Bailey 
and Mr. Flagg had long wanted. Since about a quarter of Abbot stu- 
dents appeared to be weak in reading, Miss Hearsey brought back 
Jane Sullivan, '31, to teach remedial reading, and later to serve as 
Alumnae Secretary as well. That Miss Sullivan was Abbot's first Cath- 
olic teacher was happily unremarkable, given the Principal's and Board 
President's endorsement of her. 20 The only traditional subject that 
Miss Hearsey consciously sought to redefine was Bible study. While 
Miss Bailey taught theism, Bible had languished. To the new Principal 
"form(ing) the immortal mind" was a scholarly exercise worthy of 
every student's attention, whatever her faith or lack of it. In time she 
would draw for support on the position of the American Council on 
Education, which deplored the retreat of public schools from con- 
stitutionally permissible study of the American religious tradition, and 
urged that all schools teach "the role of religion in our history, its 
relation to other phases of the culture, and the ways in which the 
religious life of the American community is expressed." 21 Students 
were almost immediately to notice that the intellectual exploration of 
the Bible was taken seriously once more (had they known it, as seri- 
ously as in the McKeen- Watson days), while faith was now left to 
Chapel. A typical alumna remembers Dr. Hans Sidon as "a wonderful 
man" whose Bible teaching thrilled her "all the time that my religious 
beliefs were gradually slipping away." 22 

One programmatic decision was required. Once more the under- 

272 AGAINST THE TIDE, I 9 I 2 — I 9 5 4 

enrolled Academic Course must be voted up or down. 23 Characteris- 
tically, Marguerite Hearsey chose in favor of tradition, and of keeping 
curricular alternatives that met a variety of student interests. More- 
over, the school was not yet full, nor would it be until the following 
year; 24 this was the wrong time to abandon a program that still at- 
tracted applicants. The Principal did propose a more demanding domes- 
tic science course. She also admired Abbot's offerings in music, art, 
and speech; hoping to emphasize these and to reverse the steady de- 
cline in music enrollments (from ninety-one in 1926 to twenty-six a 
decade later), she suggested giving the Academic Course a title more 
appropriate to its contemporary purposes. Thus "Fine and Practical 
Arts" students whose major interests were musical, artistic, or domestic 
rather than bookish continued to enrich the school long after applica- 
tions began again to outnumber openings, reminding the community 
that there was more to Abbot than college preparation. The F.P.A. 

4 or 5 years of English 

3 years of Modern language, (or 2 of modern language, 

2 of Latin) 
2 years of History 
One year of Science 
One year of Mathematics 

2 years of Art, Music, home making or business principles 
Physical Education same as for 

Chorus and hymn singing C.P. students 

Bible (2 years) 
Senior Bible (ethics) 

Courses or activities open to both C.P. and F.P.A. students, in addition 
to the requirements for each, which could be taken as electives by the 

Fourth year French and Latin Fidelio and Choir 

Review or remedial years in Elements of Psychology 

English and Latin and Ethics 

Astronomy Problems of Democracy 

Geology Third year Math (Completion 
Ancient, Medieval and Modern of algebra and plane 

and English History geometry; Trigonometry) 

Speech and Dramatics 

Consistent with Miss Hearsey's interest in world affairs, Problems 
of Democracy gave a full year's credit, where Current Events had 


always been more casual. The gradual updating of Literature texts 
continued, creeping almost always about twenty years behind the 
present. Fortunately, Ibsen and Robert Frost are always modern. It 
is interesting to note that the French and German texts Abbot stu- 
dents read under Bertha Bailey were still in use in 1945— and none 
was as advanced as those given to the McKeen-era Seniors. 25 Oral 
language training had also deteriorated after the French and German 
residences were given up at the turn of the century; it would take 
years for Miss Hearsey and her successor to reverse the trend. 

"All is well," said Miss Hearsey to the Trustees both at the end of 
her first year and in the middle of her second. 26 Yet for all the Prin- 
cipal's knowledge and experience, Abbot found those first two years 
difficult. Some vocal alumnae expected miracles; students thought new 
social freedoms would surely follow a change in administrators. "See 
if you can get back some of the privileges Miss Bailey took away," 
the Student Council President for 1934-35 had written the President 
for 1935-36, and some student leaders would press Miss Hearsey still 
harder for more downtown leaves, for lipstick, for every freedom left 
behind in home-town high schools. With Big Bertha no longer on the 
watch, many girls made their own rules, with no one's leave. A bliz- 
zard of demerits from on high— for the student proctors were more 
and more reluctant to give them— seemed useless to cool this petty 
rebellion, and the heroic efforts of the 1936-38 Student Council presi- 
dents to help their Principal accomplished little more. 27 For Marguerite 
Hearsey it was an unprecedented situation: there had been no young 
adolescents at Hollins or Bryn Mawr to contest her "methods and 
procedures ... of a scholar" 28 with little-girl gripes and surreptitious 
trips up the Hill, with smoking, or even drinking. Near-frantic faculty 
efforts to clear the mess only seemed to make it worse. In an informal 
memorandum proposing smaller dormitories, Flagg expressed his con- 
cern to the Trustees about the "confusion" that resulted from "regi- 
mentation" of the Draper Hall residents. "It was struggle, struggle, 
struggle," remembers one teacher, and for a person of Marguerite 
Hearsey's temperament and training it was bound to be terribly frus- 
trating. As a teacher-scholar, you can have a gem of a class; you can 
write a gem of a monograph. But there is no such thing— for more than 
five minutes at a time— as a gem of a school: the whole is too com- 
plex. The administrator who carries final responsibility for the whole 
must grin and bear it. 

Finally she did. And though she tended to take student or faculty 
discontent personally and could not but feel hurt by students' restive- 
ness, she would not give in to it in any fundamental way. Principal 

274 AG AIN ST TH E TIDE, I912-I954 

and teachers were quite willing to relinquish the age-old black stock- 
ings and the ban against Sabbath Day hair-washing, but they added 
late-afternoon and Saturday Study Halls. They found it convenient 
to change the free day from Wednesday to Saturday so that students 
could visit home for one full weekend and two overnight weekends a 
year— especially since Wednesday was now Phillips' free day, and 
fraught with the danger of chance meetings between boy and girl- 
but the basic Abbot routine remained intact. The adults believed in it, 
whatever the students might think. 

Early upsets were compounded by Rebekah Chickering's sudden 
death while on summer vacation in Europe in 1937, and by a sharp 
drop in the business index early in 1938 which seemed to portend new 
trouble for all private schools. The economy bounced back, but nature 
disregarded men's little successes: three days before the school was 
to open in September 1938, the worst hurricane Andover could re- 
member ripped through the township, uprooting seventy-one huge 
red oaks (as old, on the average, as Abbot Academy) from the an- 
cient Grove and scouring the campus of some of its most beautiful 
recent plantings. "Mr. Flagg was out in the wildness of the storm, 
seeing the pride of his heart laid low," wrote Jane Carpenter in the 
Bulletin. 29 Though actual damage to buildings was relatively slight, 
the school's opening had to be put off a week until power returned 
and the worst mess was cleared. For the old students who finally ar- 
rived on campus, the landscape was changed. 

Strangely, this meteorological disaster seems to have marked a turn- 
ing point for Abbot. By mid-fall of 1938 it was clear that things were 
different in more ways than one. 30 The new Principal had taken hold. 
The faculty (nearly half of them hired by her) was behind her. The 
students seemed to have accepted her. Miss Hearsey thought this might 
have been partly the result of the late opening: told they could not 
come back to school, most of the reluctant suddenly wanted to. 31 
In any case, events were conspiring to help create those subtle chemical 
changes that make each school year different from the last. Early in 
the fall Miss Hearsey proposed and the students had tried out a fresh 
disciplinary "honor system" which was intended to substitute for the 
mathematical demerit system a set of positive rewards: a "citation" 
or "rating" of "Alpha" with extra privileges to match for the few most 
outstanding girls, "Beta" for the majority who deserved the ordinary 
privileges of the school, and "Gamma" for the shaky sinner until she 
had redeemed herself— which she well might do, for a student-faculty 
committee decided ratings several times each year. An offender could 
be apprehended by other students for wearing loafers, say, or for flirt- 


ing with bus drivers, then brought before the Student Council and 
warned of an impending Gamma rating without the faculty being 
aware of her misdeeds. The Council continued to recommend punish- 
ments, including dismissal. Student leaders had helped keep order ever 
since the early Bailey years, but this felt like a real change. 

On the whole, the girls found it an improvement. Whether rating 
was done at Miss Hearsey's home or (later) in separate student-faculty 
sessions, it was exhilarating for Council members to have adults listen- 
ing to their judgments of other girls; most of them sincerely tried to 
deserve Miss Hearsey's trust, and struggled not to revel in those cat- 
tier rating discussions which they could hardly help enjoying. 32 Honor 
systems were the thing at smaller colleges now; the McKeens' "self- 
reporting" tradition was still remembered at Abbot. The new system 
had a chance of working. Inevitably, there were difficulties, for what 
government satisfies everyone? The Student Council President bore 
the double burden of persuading her Council to accept and defend 
Abbot's Victorian rules 33 and trying for her constituency's sake to 
get the faculty to ease up a bit. Presidents' speeches and the traditional 
"Presidents' letters" to their successors are filled with warnings and 

You have a tough job ahead . . . [Pres., 1935-37] 

Try to deeply impress upon (the Council members) the 
seriousness of their positions, and that nothing, absolutely 
nothing, must be carried beyond the meeting. Somewhere there 
is a leak in the Council and it is very bad. [Pres., 1936-37] 

I strongly advise your having no gripe meetings. [Pres., 1937-38] 

It's the worst thing to keep order in Chapel, on the streets 
in fact everywhere. [Pres., 1936-37] 

Our class has . . . split. We've got to stop Parties after lights 
and changing of roommates for a night and things like that which 
can seem so trivial on the surface but which underneath can 
cause a great deal of damage and ruin. [Pres., 1939-40, in 
Senior— Senior-mid meeting] 

The Rec Room needs a very firm hand. For this and wherever 
you appoint people, get them from every group ... so that 
never does one crowd "take the lead." [Pres., 1938-39] 

I guess you remember that last year was not (by far) one 
of Abbot's best years. [Pres., 1943-44] 

276 AGAINST THE TIDE, 1912-1954 

No swearing if possible in Council meetings . . . Don't say 
too much about "spirit" and "attitude." [Pres., 1941-42] 

It will undoubtedly be your hardest year, but your fullest 
and most appreciated as well. [Pres., 1941-42] 

Though it sat well with many girls to be adults' allies in enforcing 
rules, the faculty always had the last word, and some years the gap 
between adolescent aspirations and adult standards was enormous. 
Ultimately, few were fooled by the show of student-faculty unity 
which the opening school meeting always assumed. Now as in years 
past, a few individuals each year openly revolted against the honor 
system's expectation that girls turn in their scofflaw peers, though no 
one ran away from school to avoid cooperating in an investigation of 
some cigarette-smoking friends, as had happened once under Miss 
Bailey. 34 As one frustrated Student Council secretary put it after Miss 
Hearsey's rejection of the Council's Honor A nominees: 

May 22, 1946: 

One hellish meeting (catty?!) was called for Honor A. 
Miss Hearsey came in half way through (no longer catty). 
We have to re-consider girls for Honor A; she doesn't 
think we did them correctly, although we did them as she is 
telling us. (This shows how important Stu G is if the faculty 
are not in agreement. We fight, but against stone walls.) 
. . . The meeting was adjourned and I have a headache. 

Respectfully? submitted 

Yet "Stu G" ratings continued. Successive Student Councils tinkered 
with the system under Miss Hearsey's patient eye, adding a "High 
Beta" category whose members were free to sleep through Sunday 
breakfast now and then and to study in their rooms instead of study 
hall, adding this, adding that; but the essentials remained intact for 
fifteen years. 

A Room of One's Own 

One could live with such an arrangement. "Submit yourself glad- 
ly to the discipline of mind and character which Abbot— like a wise 
and kindly parent— will require of you," Miss Hearsey advised her 
charges, 35 and by 1938, most students seemed willing to take the ad- 
vice. Overall, the decade following September 1938 had the flavor of 
a little golden age, similar to the middle McKeen and Bailey periods 


42. The Abbot Faculty, October, 1938: Under the Old Oak. Top Row, left 
to right: Gertrud Rath, Assistant to Principal; *Lucile Tuttle, English; 
Margaret Snow, Librarian; Laura Pettingell, Latin; Walter Howe, Music; 
Ruth Baker, Languages; Louise Robinson, Assistant Secretary; Alice 
Sweeney, English; Miss Hearsey, Principal; Helen Robinson, Latin; *Hilda 
Baynes, French; * Laura Smith, History. Middle Row: Virginia Rogers, 
Speech; Mrs. Hannah Richmond Duncan, Nurse; Hope Baynes, Financial 
Secretary; Kate Friskin, Piano; *Marjorie Hill, History; *Rowena Rhodes, 
Physical Education; Mary Dodge, Household Sciences; *Dorothy Baker, 
English; Mrs. Roberta Gilmore Poland, Physics; Octavia Mathews, Spanish. 
Front Row: *Hope Coolidge, Dietitian; Eleanor Tucker, Chemistry and 
Mathematics; Mary Carpenter, Physical Education; Mrs. Eunice Murray 
Campbell, Business; Mrs. Jeanne Vical Miller, French; Isabel Hancock, 
Mathematics; Barbara Humes, Secretary to Principal. Part-time members 
of the faculty not shown in this picture: Bertha Morgan Gray, Elocution; 
Rev. Winthrop Richardson, Bible; Mr. Francis Merritt, Art; Gertrude 
Tingley, Singing. (Asterisks indicate new teachers.) 

in students' general acceptance of the school's requirements and their 
enthusiasm for its special offerings. Courant editors had begun to write 
of u the new Abbot" as soon as Miss Hearsey was hired. Now the 
"new Abbot" seemed to be taking shape; if student government 
changes were just a different set of clothes on an old body, the girls 
themselves approached their school with a fresh spirit. 

It helped that the few disgruntled Bailey partisans had left or been 
eased out, 36 and that Miss Hearsey had added a strong group of teach- 
ers to those committed veterans who still remained from the Bailey 
years. Many were young; young and old were willing to involve 
themselves in all phases of school life. The Spanish teacher taught 
skiing ("Advance not so much the nose, advance more the k-nees\" 

278 AGAINST THE TIDE, 19 I 2- I 954 

she could be heard imploring her beginners). The chemistry teacher 
loved field hockey. A young British teacher found that ninth and 
tenth graders could put on a Shakespeare play with nearly as much 
success as the Seniors. The whole school was show-struck again. Now 
that money came a little easier, three or four adult drama enthusiasts 
took 100 students at a time to a Boston Shakespeare production with 
Maurice Evans or Helen Hayes. And Shakespeare wasn't all, for (al- 
most) anything went on the active Abbot stage. A Yearbook account 
of Curse You Jack Dalton (or The Villain Still Pursues Her) described 
it as "always encouraging when the main character makes his grand 
entrance and all the decorations fall dramatically on his head." 37 Miss 
Hearsey chose Francis Merritt as art teacher even though he was a 
handsome twenty-six years old (something Miss Bailey would never 
have done), and Merritt began a revival of studio art that later would 
be skillfully advanced by Maud Morgan, already in the 1940's a 
painter-teacher of extraordinary talent and now in the 1970's an artist 
of national renown. By 1943-44 ninety students a year were taking 
studio art. 

The older women who kept their distance were nevertheless richly 
present to students: Kate Friskin's tenth graders in Homestead seldom 
brought her their problems, but she surrounded them with her music, 
practicing for hours each day, demanding so much of herself that it 
was difficult to resist the demands she made on them. "Miss Friskin 
was the first teacher I ever encountered who took me seriously," says 
one of her students. "Do you know that from the very first day of 
chorus, she expected real music from us? This was not what you ask 
of children! We were to create something beautiful that anyone would 
delight to hear." 38 Others still conjure up the awesome beauty of the 
Christmas music, and the yearly ritual the choir itself carried on of 
walking through the dark corridors carrying candles, singing carols to 
waken the whole school before dawn of the day Christmas vacation 
began. Alumnae of this period remember Walter Howe as rather 
subdued and passive, but Miss Friskin was teaching a full load and 
performing more than ever in Andover, Boston, and New York. The 
Principal herself taught the Senior English students one day a week; 
several recall being moved to a love of poetry for the first time by her 
sensitive discussion of it. 39 Courant flourished with Alice Sweeney as 
adviser. The editors who served during the 1940 diphtheria quarantine 
were undaunted by the requirement that every page of proof be baked 
in an oven before being sent to the printer. ("The Courant has been 
roasted, but never before has it been baked!" laughed Miss Sweeney). 40 


One active Courant Board member for that year, Joan List Van 
Ness, remembers living "most of our lives at a positive boiling point of 
excitement." "We cared passionately about everything," she goes on, 
surmising that rich intellectual fare and u a higher standard of teaching 
than I have ever encountered since" had much to do with this. 41 "You 
weren't pushed into it but you always found yourself trying things 
you hadn't dared try before," says Beverly Brooks Floe, '41, who be- 
came Editor-in-Chief of Courant the following year. Beverly Brooks 
had failed both mathematics and Latin during a year of illness and 
came to Abbot convinced of her inadequacy, but Miss Hancock and 
Miss Harriet McKee simply assumed that she could do them and do 
them beautifully. She did. She sang in Fidelio for love of Abbot music 
(and of the Exeter dances which followed joint concerts); she learned 
fencing first "out of sheer romanticism" from French teacher Jeanne 
Vical, an Olympic fencer, but kept at it out of appreciation for 
the discipline and precision the sport demanded. There was never 
enough time for her or most of her classmates to do all they wanted 
to do. 42 No individual seems to have felt constricted by established 
programs. Though the majority were able scholars and knew it ("the 
rest went to Briarcliff," sniffs one), nothing was static: a C.P. graduate 
of 1940 went from Katherine Gibbs to real estate management, a Fine 
and Practical Arts graduate of 1941 eventually went on to teaching 
and doctoral studies in home economics. 

Miss Hearsey tried to know every student. Her effort went way 
beyond her personal good night to each girl after Vespers, and the 
Sunday night suppers at Sunset— though these were important too, 
as were many of the older rituals, including the yearly Christmas din- 
ner, the Ring ceremonies and Tree Songs that had touched adolescent 
hearts since the McKeen days. True, the old forms of competition still 
goaded everyone: it took 20 athletic points and a High Beta rating 
to win membership in the A Society now, 450 points to earn an Abbot 
Blazer. The names of all Alpha and High Beta girls were read at 
Chapel. The anonymous student Posture Markers still lurked, watch- 
ful for slumped shoulders. But most important for alumnae of these 
years was the general sense that standards were high, that anyone good 
enough to be at Abbot in the first place could meet them, and that to 
do so one would get all the help one deserved. No one was ever sent to 
a psychiatrist: one dropped out first (or at most went discreetly for 
summer vacation therapy). 43 The adulthood that the Abbot faculty 
represented was comprehensible and on the whole admirable at this 
time. Adolescents were hurtling toward such an adulthood— or toward 

280 AGAINST THE TIDE, 1912-1954 

another future not far afield— and there was serious work to be done! 
Miss Hearsey's rhyme read in honor of Burton Flagg could have ap- 
plied to Abbot Academy itself: 

Whether you've taught better that work is play, 
Or play is work, it's hard to say. 44 

The old Puritan equation held. 

Beverly Brooks somehow made sure she had Miss Sweeney for an 
English teacher two years in a row, and Miss Sweeney made sure that 
no Abbot girl left the school without having read Virginia Woolf's 
A Room of One's Oivn. This guide to an unencumbered imagination 
combines ruthless historical analysis of the logic of oppression with a 
celebration of women's possibilities— given 500 pounds a year and a 
room of her own. Woolf described the obstacles women writers and 
scholars face: "The world said (to woman) with a guffaw, Write? 
What's the good of your writing?" 45 Equally it asked her, why found 
women's colleges (or academies)? and taunted her: try if you can 
to match our grand grey halls of learning, monuments to masculine 
creativity built on the wealth we have wrested from peoples less man- 
ly, more ignorant than we, and rightly kept from our women's free 
use. Woolf's book was an eloquent reminder to Abbot students of all 
that young women and their schools contend with on the way to a 
full humanity that is free of self-centeredness and self-pity. At the 
same time, Abbot Academy seems to have been for many a young 
woman a room of her own, where her present, personal strivings could 
find support in a consciousness that generations of women had there 
striven and succeeded before her. Woolf considered this consciousness 
of successful forebearers crucial to men's creative accomplishments. 
Abbot kept it alive through the Principal's welcome in Opening Chapel 
("over 5000 girls have climbed these Chapel stairs . . . have sung the 
hymns we love") and in a host of rituals and traditions that the stu- 
dents of these Hearsey years appeared to love as much as their Abbot 
grandmothers had. Most simply and pervasively, "Abbot's not good 
because it's old, it's old because it's good," Marguerite Hearsey would 
say, 46 and most of her students believed her. It is no accident that of 
the five woman Trustees now serving the co-educational Phillips 
Academy, four attended the school during this brief golden age. 47 

No educational ideology seemed necessary to Abbot; history was 
sufficient. Miss Hearsey gave up Miss Bailey's membership in the Pro- 
gressive Education Association. True, she did describe to the Trustees 
in 1 94 1 the outcome of the Eight- Year Study, organized by the P.E.A. 
to compare the college records of students from relatively unconven- 



tional secondary school programs with a comparable group from those 
traditional high schools that still followed the college preparatory 
course laid out by the Committee of Ten. The progressive school 
graduates did as well or better in college. College admissions officers 
concluded that they might make course-unit requirements more flex- 
ible; Miss Hearsey, unimpressed, concluded that her faculty could 

43. Christmas Vespers, 1949. 

282 AGAINST THE TIDE, 1912-1954 

continue offering a curriculum built around teachers' talents and Ab- 
bot's traditional leanings toward the arts. 48 Especially after 1944, when 
the F.P.A. course was abandoned, she felt she must urge faculty against 
"priming the pump" for college admissions tests. 49 The key to educa- 
tion was teachers who knew their subjects, she said, not cram courses 
or pedagogues trained in normal schools. Marguerite Hearsey's tenure 
coincided with the acme of the professional educationist brand of 
progressivism and with the P.E.A.'s divorce from lay interests and 
concerns. 50 The Eight- Year Study was the only one of the Associa- 
tion's works she thought worthy of mention. She hired not a single 
classroom teacher with a college or graduate degree in education. In 
part this represented a self-perpetuating upper-middle class loyalty 
to upper-middle class private liberal arts college training— but not en- 
tirely, for Miss Hearsey eventually added several language and arts 
teachers whose formal education was unconventional, incomplete or 
both. Abbot teachers would visit Putney School and other progressive 
shops to learn what they had to offer; they would create an interlock- 
ing history-English-music-art core course for tenth graders and draw 
on a variety of specific progressive ideas; but "it's primarily the quali- 
ty of the teachers" that counts, wrote Miss Hearsey, 51 and which of 
those chosen high-quality Abbot teachers would disagree? Miss Bailey's 
faculty seminars had ended; faculty asked for little discussion of ed- 
ucational issues. "We didn't much question what we were doing or 
why, and neither did the students of those days," says Alice Sweeney. 
Once Miss Hearsey and Miss Sweeney were satisfied that all was going 
well with a new teacher, they might offer help but they never im- 
posed it. Thus each teacher also had a room of her own, for better 
or worse, and would have till Abbot's corporate life was over. 

Master Builders 

By the fall of 1937 Miss Hearsey was well enough established to join 
the Trustees in their plans to add to Abbot's material goods. The De- 
pression's worst dangers past, Tamblyn and Brown were rehired to 
launch the Second Century Fund at last, with $250,000 as its five-year 
goal. These consultants were already helping six other schools and 
colleges raise from $500,000-14,000,000; their analysis of Abbot's con- 
stituency convinced them Abbot could find its half-million with a 
decade or so of effort. The Trustees had recently retained Mr. Jens 
Frederick Larson of Dartmouth College, a distinguished and ambitious 
institutional architect, to advise them on expansion of library, living, 


and dining space. Though Draper Hall was only forty-five years old, 
its original pinch-penny construction was already beginning to tell. 
The foundation under the dining-room staircase had begun to sag in 
mid-Depression; the supports buckled and the staircase leaned dan- 
gerously. Flagg solved this problem with a new concrete foundation 
and steel bracing, but no amount of tinkering could restore fourth- 
floor dormitory space lost to fire regulations, for the Fire Department 
did not approve of an escape system which depended on individual 
"fire ropes," employed largely for fun or for night escapades once 
students had been instructed in their use, seldom during Abbot's fre- 
quent fire drills. 52 The ceremonious prediction that the memory of 
Warren Draper's "benefactions will outlast the Hall that bears his 
name" 53 seemed likely to be borne out all too soon. On the other hand, 
Larson looked at tough old Abbot Hall and waxed lyrical. He thought 
it must have been designed according to some standard Bulfinch plan if 
not bv Charles Bulfinch himself, 54 and he immediately proposed that 
all new construction be of similar design. Excited and hopeful, the 
Trustees and Miss Hearsey put all their dreams into an appeal to Ed- 
ward S. Harkness, who had given a $7,000,000 gift to Phillips Exeter 
Academy six years before. 

The appeal is important as an expression of Abbot's values during 
the Hearsey period, even though Harkness refused to respond. "Dur- 
ing its long and honorable history," it began, "Abbot has educated 
many young women who have won distinction themselves and many 
who have become the mothers of distinguished sons. The ideal of 
Abbot has never been a 'feminist' one. Thorough and solid in its in- 
struction, from the first it has aimed constantly at the cultivation 
of womanly qualities. It places much emphasis on art and music and 
offers good training in 'Home-making.' " 55 The appeal quoted Abbot's 
Constitution and described the school's fund-raising effort, then crit- 
icized the present accommodations for one hundred girls in Draper 
and twenty-five in the cottages. No official document had ever ex- 
pressed such discontent with Abbot's traditional living arrangements: 
"This division is not only undesirable from a practical point of view, 
but it is illogical and unsound from an educational point of view. It 
allows for no reasonable grouping of the girls, nor for any natural 
and close relationship between teachers and girls." As little as $12,500 
of Harkness money added to Second Century funds would allow 
demolition of the long southern wing of that aging elephant, Draper 
Hall, and an entire remodeling of the rest that would lower the roof 
and redesign the facade in accordance with Bulflnch-Larson specifica- 
tions. This new "Draper Hall" could accommodate a kitchen-dining 

284 AGAINST TH E TIDE, 1912-1954 

room, a library, and forty Seniors. Would Harkness also pay for two 
or three small dormitories of about twenty-seven girls each and endow 
salaries for three additional "Dons or Counselors" so that Abbot, like 
Exeter, could foster "constant and natural association" between youth 
and adult "during these most impressionable adolescent years?" "We 
conceive of education as a process involving the entire life of a young 
person"; would not Harkness make this possible "for girls as well as 
for boys" by giving Abbot $2 8 2, 500? 56 

No, Harkness would not. Not for Abbot, not for girls anywhere. 57 
The Trustees began a retreat to less ambitious goals, determining that 
at least the top two stories of Draper be amputated, that a new roof 
and exterior be constructed in the Bulfinch style of Abbot Hall, and 
that two new wings in the same architectural tradition be added. But 
the fund was limping, short of $50,000 in spite of prodigious campaign 
efforts and expensive efforts by Tamblyn and Brown. All Miss Hear- 
sey's trips and speeches, all Bulletin pulls on alumnae heart strings, 58 
and the "tactful cultivation" of the sixty-one "large gifts" prospects 59 
could not change the fact that the 1938 recession had halved stock 
market values once again. An alumna's letter in December 1938 apol- 
ogized for the size of her contribution, asserting that it would have 
been more, "if the author of our 'fireside chats' were not so uncertain 
a quantity, and the future . . . less dark." 60 Another added, a year 
later, "Of course if things continue on the inclined plane, we shall 
probably all end our lives at the county farm." 61 

Fortunately, one Abbot friend was just rich enough and just ec- 
centric enough 62 to give $50,000 for a dormitory on three conditions: 
that it be built immediately, that it be named for her, and that she be 
given an 8 percent life annuity on the contribution. 63 Gratefully, Ab- 
bot accepted this gift from Emily Abbey Gill, and work on Abbey 
House, a dormitory for twenty-six students, started in the spring of 
1939. Just two years later construction began on the two new Draper 
wings, in spite of ominous sounds of war in Europe and the Trustees' 
fear of strikes, inflation, and short supplies, soon to be borne out. The 
buildings rose, even while the total fund seemed stuck at $130,000 and 
Flagg grumbled about $5.00 contributors who owned yachts or the 
costliness of Tamblyn and Brown's advice. 64 Ten thousand dollars of 
contributions were memorials to Bertha Bailey, $7,500 to Miss Chicker- 
ing, and $24,000 to Miss Means; dining room, reading room, and li- 
brary were built and equipped with these funds. Unfortunately, roof 
reconstruction had to be abandoned after the builder discovered that 
Draper's west foundation was weakly made of "field boulders poorly 
laid with large voids" and must be rebuilt; 65 as it was, the total cost 


came to $71,000 more than total contributions. For the first time since 
1890, Abbot went in debt to finish the job. Flagg procured a 1.5 
percent loan of $20,000 from the Andover National Bank, where he 
still served as director, and borrowed the rest from the endowment. 66 
A world out of joint favored such bold action. Robert Hutchins 
went so far as to ask "What good are endowments?" in an article 
which Miss Hearsey reported to the Trustees a year before Pearl 
Harbor; he answered his own question by invoking the futility of 
"conserv[ing] assets for an unpredictable future, the conditions of 
which we cannot ever guess." 67 Still, it seemed a drastic risk for the 
traditionally frugal Abbot Trustees to take, and one senses from ac- 
counts of Trustee deliberations that lacking Miss Hearsey's optimism 
and Barton Chapin's responsiveness to her constant pushing, it would 
never have been taken at all. Yet it paid. Increased enrollments during 
the War were to bring in a surplus of at least $20,000 every year, and 
more than restore the endowment to full strength. Sitting on its re- 
furbished physical plant at War's end, sitting on an endowment of 
$514,800 in 1946, a far larger total than that of any other school for 
girls (even if endowment interest was now only half of the 5 percent 
of pre-Depression days), Abbot Academy could be extraordinarily 
pleased with itself. As in the late McKeen era, dreams that outstripped 
Abbot's capabilities had produced real gains, despite the odds. 68 

Again War 

Rumbles in Europe had long sounded faintly at Abbot Academy. A 
speaker compared Hitler, Stalin, Mussolini, and Roosevelt in 1934, 
and QED held a debate the same spring on the subject "Resolved, 
that Nazi Control in Austria will endanger the Peace of Europe." If 
most students were at first oblivious to foreign affairs, 69 the many 
Abbot teachers who had studied or vacationed in Europe kept in 
touch with European friends, and worried. A British countess spoke in 
1937 on the dark mood of English youth. Miss Hearsey asked (and 
received) the Trustee's permission to hire a Jewish refugee "on a main- 
tenance basis" in December 1938, as Shady Hill School in Cambridge 
was doing. 70 With the invasion of Poland, Courant writers and Satur- 
day lecturers came alive to the impending danger. Just as had hap- 
pened during World War I, war began for Abbot Academy well be- 
fore most of the nation had any interest in war at all. 71 

For Marguerite Hearsey, as for Miss Bailey, the danger without gave 
point to the educator's mission. At Opening Chapel in 1939, she told 

286 AGAINST THE TIDE, 19 I 2- I 954 

all Abbot that "we must be willing to go into a sort of voluntary 
training for service to a world so needing our help." In the spring 
of 1940 she urged alumnae to come to Commencement to be "recon- 
firmed in your faith that a school like Abbot is an influence of incal- 
culable value in our modern social order." 72 Her antennae were es- 
pecially sensitive to the drawing in of Great Britain. She had done 
several years of YWCA war work in World War I; her academic 
field was Elizabethan England, and her heart was with the British as 
they began to buckle before the juggernaut. "In the face of such suf- 
fering and heroism, we all feel, I am sure, that there is no place for 
self indulgence, for littleness or laziness or softness," said the Principal 
in 1940, in her opening speech to the school. Students made plans to 
devote the year's Bazaar to British war relief, while the Trustees agreed 
to provide full scholarships for British Refugee children. The Principal 
had hired Dorothy Baker, her first British teacher in 1939, and Miss 
Baker soon offered to seek out six English girls who could make good 
use of Abbot. The youngsters were chosen, packed, and ready to sail 
(one had been "so proud of my white dress," which had taken "some 
scheming" and many ration coupons to acquire) 73 when an evacuee 
transport was bombed and sunk, drowning hundreds of children, and 
the British government decided to allow no more to leave that year. 
It was a great disappointment, for Abbot had wanted desperately to 

Another chance came early in 1941. Ten eastern private schools 
cooperated to fund a British ambulance unit, and they invited Abbot 
to join them. Miss Hearsey jumped at the idea. She brought in a Brit- 
ish friend fresh from the London nursing stations to join her in speak- 
ing to the school through a two-hour special meeting about the 
project, hoping to convince both girls and teachers that Abbot Acad- 
emy should support an ambulance unit all on its own. If the entire 
student body would contribute all the cash they had or could raise, 
if the faculty would sacrifice a portion of their salaries, and, most of 
all, if parents would make contributions according to their means, a 
$10,000 Abbot ambulance could roll. Yes, yes, said everyone. "Over- 
whelmed with exhortation . . . we dazedly voted away our allowances 
and every other little amenity of our somewhat option-lacking lives," 
writes one alumna. 

"A few hours later, sobered up" from the afternoon's "revival meet- 
ing," she goes on, some of the older girls had time to decide that 
they "had been railroaded." "Taxation without representation!" ex- 
claimed one, and the slogan started around the school. 74 These students 
knew how much work it had taken to earn just $1,000 for worthy 


causes at the last two Bazaars. Earlier in the year, QED had seriously 
asked in one of the student-run Chapel services, "Is Hitler's defeat 
essential for the United States?" All who took Bible had heard Rever- 
end Richardson argue for pacifism and neutrality. 75 Students were no 
more sure than were their parents that the nation, much less Abbot, 
should commit itself heart and soul to Great Britain's cause. Though 
they wanted very much to join the ten-school ambulance project, they 
balked at footing the whole bill. Had advanced Anglophilia possessed 
both their Principal and all their teachers, they wondered? Or was 
this simply an assemblage of strong women distressed by their help- 
lessness to fight a man's war? 76 Spontaneously, the group made Beverly 
Brooks, '41, their spokesman; all of the Courant board, most of Fidelio, 
then the school itself quickly followed. Beverly went to Miss Hearsey 
and described the students' mood. They would gladly raise all they 
could through rummage sales and canteens, and they were planning an 
all-out Bazaar, she said, but they could not see soliciting parents or 
forcing a sacrifice of $1.25 weekly allowances for what should be an 
inside-Abbot volunteer effort. 

Now it was Miss Hearsey's turn to be incredulous. She could not 
believe her students would protest this generous, heart-felt proposal— 
and indeed, she seems to several alumnae to have felt sure they were 
rejecting her, not just her idea. Sadly, she retreated from the $10,000 
project. Yet a visitor on campus would not have guessed that anyone 
was rejecting anything. The Seniors' canteen was supplying snacks 
as good as the downtown fare, and it had become a mark of patriotism 
to forego luxurious food in Andover or new Easter clothes at home. 
Miss Hearsey would not agree to let the most enthusiastic skip Sunday 
night suppers, but the school ate one spartan meal each week, and 
donated the savings to the cause. "We worked terribly hard," say 
two of the leaders. Another still holds shreds of resentment against 
the administration for throwing bureaucratic roadblocks in the way 
of some of the most promising projects merely (she thinks) "because 
we had opposed Miss Hearsey's original fund-raising ideas and had 
mounted our own drive for the ten-school ambulance." Rumor con- 
vinced many Seniors that the faculty had considered withholding the 
diploma from at least one student leader for stirring up the younger 
girls, and that they might well have done so had not Alice Sweeney 
and a few others turned the tide. When the Student Council unani- 
mously recommended this same girl for an Honor A, the faculty re- 
jected the recommendation. Whatever the cause, there was tension 
to spare between many Abbot students and adults that spring, as well 
as a "wretched inner turmoil" for individual students who greatly 

288 AGAINST TH E TIDE, I912-I954 

admired their Principal and her idealism but felt out of phase with 
her expectations. 77 

Eventually, things quieted down. The faculty allowed the endan- 
gered student leader to graduate cum laude with her class, and wished 
her Godspeed; the students sent nearly $2,000 for the ambulance and 
British War Relief. In a sense it was nothing but one of those spring 
tempests in a boarding school teapot, yet it plunged half the two upper 
classes into a soul-search that several still remember as one milestone 
on the way to womanhood: respected adults could go overboard. 78 

On December 7, 1941, Abbot's only Oriental girls, a Chinese and 
a Japanese, walked off" together down the Maple Walk, both equally 
upset. The formal entry of the United States into war cleared all am- 
biguities and divisions for the rest of the school, however. "We shall 
try to avoid emotionalism . . . Our orders are to carry on," Miss 
Hearsey told the students the next day, before instructing them in 
air raid procedures against Japanese fighter-bombers. Flagg arranged 
$1,000,000 worth of war damage insurance with Merrimack Mutual and 
passed the purchasing lessons of his World War I experience on to 
Hope Coolidge, Abbot's unflappable household superintendent. Teach- 
ers helped townspeople with plane spotting, students again took de- 
fense courses (Home Nursing, Motor Mechanics, World Events), ate 
"golden rule" dinners, rolled bandages, and waited on tables to replace 
the maids who had left for defense plants seeking more than the 
eleven dollars a week they got from Abbot Academy. Odeon, ADS, 
and the other societies were suspended for the duration. "Study, Save, 
Strive for Strength" was the wartime Abbot slogan, and for the most 
part everyone measured up. "This is no time for 'education as usual,' 
for anything as usual," wrote the Principal. "The War will not wait. 
Total war must be totally waged." 79 

Stimulated by the national discussion of training priorities, the 
faculty considered changing the emphasis of the curriculum from 
liberal arts to applied sciences, mathematics, modern languages, and 
other immediately useful skills. 80 Phillips Academy ran a summer 
school to offer such training to young men hurrying toward enlist- 
ment; should not Abbot do its part? On second thought, however, Ab- 
bot decided with many other girls' schools that a liberal arts education 
was the best defense of those civilized values the Axis sought to de- 
stroy. As in past wars, American men would fight, and the traditional 
American culture would "have to be sustained largely by women." 81 
John Dewey and other philosophers of the original Progressive move- 


ment had urged schools to deemphasize this "cumulative experience 
of the race," to cultivate instead the young person's immediate sense 
of purpose and his capacity to solve those problems he himself iden- 
tifies. 82 But Abbot Academy was already simmering with purpose 
within an "embryonic community" such as those Dewey advocated 
for all schools. 83 "Our School is a little democracy," Miss Hearsey 
often said in Chapel; if one could discount the process by which the 
elite gathered at Abbot in the first place, the statement was credible 
now that wartime fervor had overcome student preoccupations with 
style and status— the way to set off one's string of pearls against one's 
Shetland sweater, for example, or the place to buy exactly the right 
"reversible" raincoat (which one never reversed). 84 Petty divisions 
vanished before the great national task. 

As in the Depression years, travel was limited (spring vacations 
were canceled to avoid it) and one must make the best of Andover 
Hill. "The sense of community was stronger during the war than it 
would ever be again," remembers Eleanor Tucker. Fancy entertain- 
ments and casual Boston trips were out, but each teacher's tea set 
served her colleagues in turn, while students roller-skated around the 
Sacred Circle. Homegrown shows were mobbed. Music, drama, and 
dance faculty jostled each other for stage space in Davis Hall (and 
music usually won— "You had to try to hold your own against Kate 
Friskin," says Miss Tucker) ; about sixty piano and voice students each 
year gave recitals; with the help of her husband, Phillips Art Instruc- 
tor Patrick Morgan, Maud Morgan arranged Phillips-Abbot art com- 
petitions; Phillips and Abbot students mounted Gilbert and Sullivan 
operettas together for four successive springs, the first joint produc- 
tions since Miss McKeen had allowed the Haymakers Chapel space 
in the 1860's. The stiff "calling hour" was abandoned for informal 
Friday night dancing in the recreation room. One girl broke her leg 
jitterbugging, but the dancing went on. An alumna has written that 
the "warm and sheltered life within the gates" contrasted strangely, 
sometimes disturbingly, with the "savage forces outside" as girls tried 
to put their fears aside and concentrate on school responsibilities. For 
some who had taken on serious summer jobs, Abbot's rules suddenly 
seemed insulting; for others, the school was a haven. 85 It is interesting 
that Miss Hearsey herself found time in the middle of the war to 
write a poem for the Christian Science Monitor. 

So still the woods that dappled light and shade 
Lie gentlier, and ants moving in moss 

290 AGAINST THE TIDE, 1912-1954 

Seem noisy in their immemorial trade. 
Soundless, the pines with slow rhythm toss . . . 86 

No one need worry overmuch about the liberal arts at Abbot. 

Unlike most secondary schools, Abbot kept nearly all its teachers, 
adding only a few refugee or other European teachers to its staff. 87 
For ten years after Pearl Harbor, fully one third of Abbot's twenty 
teaching faculty were European born, European educated, or both. 
Abbot had drunk of European culture since the Civil war; now the 
cup was filled every day by teachers who had seen the Spanish Civil 
war or the French Resistance first hand. 

Applications soared. The trend had begun in 1939 as college en- 
trance competition intensified, but the war hastened it so much that 
the school had filled its 130-143 boarding places with promising ap- 
plicants or returning students by March of almost every year; and 
many had to be turned away. 88 Boarding tuition had already returned 
to $1,400 in 1937; it mounted to $1,500 in 1945 and $1,700 in 1948, to 
meet a 50 percent war and postwar rise in wholesale prices. Still, it was 
lower than almost all other eastern girls' boarding schools, 89 and par- 
ents newly affluent with wartime wealth could pay it. 90 If IQ tests 
measure anything, applicants' academic ability was also higher; 14 
percent in 1938-39 had IQ's in the 80-98 range, (15 percent were over 
120) while in 1941 only 3.4 percent fell in the 94-100 range. By 1949 
the average IQ for Abbot's 190 students would be 118; the Seniors 
who had made it all the way through averaged 125. 91 Abbot was not 
unique. "All of the good preparatory schools are overflowing this 
year," said Miss Hearsey in the fall of 1944. 92 In part the competition 
for college admissions was responsible, for by that year the major 
women's colleges could accept only one in four or five applicants; 
but the disruptions in families where parents were undertaking defense 
work or serving abroad must also be accounted. Yet Abbot applica- 
tions would keep on growing during these postwar years when many 
schools went hungry for students, as though parents were continuing 
to seek some still, orderly place for their daughters in a troubled 

One World 

V-E Day found Abbot thankful, and already preparing for worldwide 
peace and brotherhood. Miss Hearsey prayed with deep emotion for 
the millions of young heroes who "in their courage and devotion to 


the cause of righteousness, followed the way the Master went." The 
Choir was ready with several suitable anthems of thanksgiving. For 
over two years, Abbot had kept in close touch with "World Peace 
Plans" as one of the monthly wartime discussion groups was entitled. 
Beginning in the fall of 1943, Abbot mounted a series of lectures on 
Postwar Problems, including experts on Russia, on China, and on plans 
for international organization and cooperation. Miss Hearsey joined 
Alan and Josephine Blackmer to speak on the Dumbarton Oaks pro- 
posals at the Andover Public Library; she regularly brought news of 
the ambitious discussions of "World Citizenship" from meetings of 
the Headmistresses Association and the NAPSG. The students raised 
$2,000 for the World Student Service Fund in 1946, more than any 
school in the country. 93 Briefly, Andover was considered as an alter- 
native to New York City for the permanent site of the United Na- 
tions. 94 Abbot students participated in World Youth Forums, in 
World Government weeks, and in model international free-trade 
councils; they gave Bazaar proceeds to the World Student Service 
Fund; a small group of World Federalists campaigned vigorously in- 
side the school. 95 One World was coming, if not here already, and 
Marguerite Hearsey's Abbot was determined to be part of it. It would 
be a far more complex world community than the Utopia which the 
nineteenth-century Abbot had envisioned— where all humanity were 
to become evangelical Protestants— but it would be as surely One. 

Practical postwar problems at Abbot required attention: Should 
students continue to wait on table in spite of the sacrifice of dignity 
that went with the rush and clatter of well-intentioned amateurs? 96 
(After a trial of the old system it was decided that the maids were too 
slow and too unreliable, so student crews returned— including "dawn 
patrol" for the breakfast waitresses.) How should Abbot handle the 
crowds of visitors and parents that arrived almost every week now 
that cars were available again, bringing fresh applicants or requests for 
special week-end leaves for their daughters? Miss Hearsey eventually 
appointed Isabel Hancock as Admissions Director and hostess, and set 
up a yearly Parents' Weekend to alleviate part of the problem. 97 Yet 
none of these deterred the Principal from the challenges her idealism 
had posed her. "Noblesse oblige," she would tell her students, and not 
with a snicker. 98 She had been working for years to sharpen her profes- 
sional colleagues' interest in private schools' responsibilities within a 
world soon to be done with tyranny. From 1943 on, all those Anglo- 
Saxon lady-principals sat together worrying the problem at their New 
York meetings, sincerely concerned with eliminating their students' 
sense of Anglo-Saxon superiority, though most of their schools had 

292 AGAINST THE TIDE, 1912-1954 

thrived on a clientele that sent its daughters to them partly to enjoy 
that supposed superiority." A 1944 exchange of letters between the 
Rogers Hall Headmistress and the Phillips Headmaster suggests the 
ladies' courage in even considering Negro admissions. Miss McGay 
had asked Fuess to keep his one black Glee Club singer home from a 
joint concert-dance at Rogers Hall. 

Dear Mr. Fuess: 

Quite frankly I still feel like a worm to have refused our 
hospitality to any one of your students. However, I believe 
that our girls are not old enough to handle such a situation 
tactfully [We have several from the South who] would be in 
a state should any one of them draw him for a dancing partner. 

Miss Katherine W. McGay, [November 30, 1944] 

Fuess's reply is understanding: 

. . . the situation is different with girls than it is with boys, 
as I know only too well. Personally I have, I think, no prejudice 
whatever against Negroes, but I should not like to have them 
attend our P.A. tea dances, and so far as I am aware, they 
have not done so . . . 

This was a slight improvement over a letter Fuess wrote that same year 
to an alumnus, in which he stated that the two Negroes attending Phil- 
lips were enough; more might cause "excitement and trouble." 100 

Few girls' schools served Jews, much less black students. Abbot, at 
least, welcomed occasional Jews, brought in black musicians, poets, 
and lecturers on interracial problems, and sponsored student-faculty 
forums on minority groups in American life. Oriental students had 
been to Abbot for decades, including a Japanese girl who had come 
from Tokyo just before the War to stay through 1942, and the first 
of the three Young girls who came by way of the Philippines after 
their father had been murdered by the Japanese. 101 Most of these had 
loved the school; a few had been top scholars. Abbot was to Genevieve 
Young, '48, a haven of "order and stability" with its invariant schedule, 
its polished tea silver, even its constriction of choices. She loved En- 
glish history with Anna Roth, whose passion for her subject "was so 
great that your knees knocked and you felt totally wrung out after 
one of her classes," 102 and her teachers say she developed brilliantly as 
a student. Abbot was also accustomed to giving scholarships. The 
Young sisters had full tuition-board grants; so did two sisters from India 
and four daughters of Oxford professors; so did Minola Hapsburg, 
daughter of a deposed Rumanian Princess, who spent several of the 


war years at Abbot. 103 Most scholarships were small ones spread thin, 
however, and the percentage of tuition income added each year to 
the endowed scholarships had fallen from a Depression year high of 
n to a steady 5. Miss Hearsey had been hoping since 1943 to increase 
and systematize them through a group-scholarship system similar to 
that of the Seven Sisters Women's colleges. 104 After 1946 a chock-full 
school could afford to invite three or four girls each year from families 
without resources, as well as ten to twenty for half tuition. 

Abbot knew, if most Americans did not, that thousands of black 
families could now afford half or even full tuition for private school. 
Alice Sweeney had been especially cheered to watch the accretion of 
Jewish, Italian, and Syrian names appearing on the roster, and now 
she wondered aloud why Abbot should have no Negro students. A 
Jewish alumna 105 wrote her soon after the War to pose the same ques- 
tion. Students talking with a black social worker in Miss Hearsey's 
living room after yet another lecture on interracial understanding 
asked what Abbot was doing about it. 106 Together, Miss Sweeney and 
Miss Hearsey decided Abbot was ready. 

Miss Hearsey's first step was to write a respected Abbot father in 
Rome, Georgia, for his opinion. In his reply he expressed his fears for 
an interracial Abbot's future. The school would risk the withdrawal of 
any Southern girl who had to attend a social occasion where male 
Negro callers were present, and he promised he would withdraw his 
own daughter if Negro girls were admitted; so would most of his fel- 
low Southerners. After "many years thought," he had concluded that 

The Negro, with many fine qualities, has other qualities which 
are very undesirable, and are apparently not affected by educa- 
tion or circumstances. Accordingly, I believe that social inter- 
mingling should be avoided, since I think it will lead to 
intermarriage . . . 107 

This was a blow, for Miss Hearsey had been actively and successfully 
recruiting Southern students; but she persisted. She wrote the Principal 
of Emma Willard to ask how her one Negro girl was faring. (Fine, 
was the answer, though the girl has tactfully kept potential black boy 
friends away.) 108 Miss Hearsey warned the Trustees that Negro girls 
might soon apply to Abbot on their own, and told them Abbot should 
make ready either to welcome or to refuse them. 109 She continued to 
educate them against racial stereotypes, speaking (one feels, with ad- 
miration) as much to her own biases as to theirs, for she had a Vir- 
ginian's pocketful of pickaninny stories which she had used quite often 
in speeches before 1944. 110 Though most of the Board waxed receptive 

294 AGAINST THE TIDE, 1912-I954 

to her repeated reminders, the kindly Irving Southworth resisted. "It 
just wouldn't work," he would say. 111 His wife was a Southerner; he 
had been a Trustee since 1923 and Clerk since 1934, and at Abbot the 
enduring held much influence. 

For three years no black student applied. Then one applied and was 
rejected: her academic record suggested failure at Abbot. Finally 
Irving Southworth died. Miss Hearsey called a Southern friend who 
knew a few of Atlanta's distinguished black families. In the late spring 
of 1953 the Principal was informing all Abbot parents that Beth 
Chandler from Atlanta and Sheryl Wormley from Washington had 
been accepted for admission, and by midsummer three families had 
withdrawn their daughters. This news did not daunt the Chandlers: 
Beth's father had been one of a handful of blacks at Middlebury Col- 
lege and had done well; her older brother was at Middlebury now, and 
her grandfather lived in Andover. Still, Professor and Mrs. Chandler 
wanted to make certain Beth knew what she was in for. Was she sure 
she still wanted to go to Abbot? they asked her. "I don't see anything 
wrong with me," Beth Chandler Warren recalls saying. "Therefore it's 
their problem, not mine." Thus she entered her Senior-Mid year as an 
almost-fifteen-year-old, hungry for the academic challenges her local 
high school could not give her and looking forward to everything 
Abbot, Andover, and Boston had to offer. She had decided she 
wouldn't care whether she made friends or not. 

Few Abbot girls, if any, had ever known a black person who was 
not a servant or a porter; one wondered where Beth's stocking cap 
was, another why her hair wasn't greasy. Beth told them. They learned 
to laugh at their ignorance, and she got on fine. There was a near crisis 
when Beth and her closest friend, a white girl, decided to room to- 
gether for Senior year, and the girl's parents refused to allow it. Miss 
Hearsey asked the two girls if she could help. Shortly after this a tact- 
ful letter from the Principal arrived at the home of Beth's friend, de- 
scribing the advanced degrees Beth's parents held. It was irresistible: 
the white parents changed their minds. 

Many minds changed in those years at Abbot Academy. "The stere- 
otypes were just shot to pot," says Beth. Beth's stately grandfather 
came to visit, his British accent still crisp from his young manhood in 
Jamaica. Her brother came calling from Middlebury, but no more 
Southern girls withdrew. The faculty waxed nervous at Commence- 
ment time: youngsters were one thing but what would the white par- 
ents think? "Are we welcome?" Sheryl's parents asked Alice Sweeney 
as they drove into the gates. "Indeed yes," replied Miss Sweeney, but 
she had no way of being sure this was true. As it happened, not a 


ripple of resentment showed. No one could know how close was 
Supreme Court-ordered integration when two lone blacks entered Ab- 
bot; just a few predicted the social revolution that would be under 
way by the time Beth Chandler graduated with many honors in 1955. 
And while Abbot had joined up late to claim any medals, the school 
grew proud of its own small part in that revolution, for however few 
and however harassed at times, each of its black students was trans- 
formed in the minds of her white peers from token to highly valued 
friend or associate. 

Marguerite Hearsey would also leave Abbot with honor in 1955. 
Several trying years were to precede and follow her retirement, how- 
ever, years of dissonance between Abbot's standards and the changing 
aspirations of its students. Dissonance does not preclude individual 
growth; on the contrary, it often engenders it. But Abbot and its 
faculty were unaccustomed to serious contradiction, and it would be 
tough going at times. Fortunate it was that Miss Hearsey had built 
well during her first dozen years, for some of the best things about 
Abbot in its final decades were continuations of her initiatives. 


The More Things Change, 

. . . The more they remained the same at Abbot Academy. Abbot 
moved, of course; but the world was speeding by so much faster that 
what strikes one is the amazing inertia of the place, a conservatism 
partly deliberate and useful, partly perplexed. Although Marguerite 
Hearsey would retire in 1955, her successor would do all she could 
for at least eight years to hold Abbot steady amid the tide of change, 
keeping to the course that had been set in the years following the War. 
Such changes as Mary Crane did wish to make were resisted by force- 
ful faculty perennials loyal to the Abbot they had known under Miss 
Hearsey. Those that succeeded were dictated by external pressures 
more than by internal purposes. 

If a school's success can be measured in applications and enroll- 
ments, then Abbot was wise to resist rapid change, for while demo- 
graphers predicted doom for private school enrollments through the 
early fifties and the President of Harvard did his best to persuade good 
citizens to send their children to comprehensive public high schools, 
Abbot's applications steadily increased. Those good citizens wanted 
their children to get into colleges like Harvard and RadclifTe, or they 
wished sanctuary for their daughters from worldly confusion, or hus- 
bands for their daughters from Phillips Academy or a share for them 
in a family Abbot tradition— and in ever greater numbers they had the 
money to buy these things, for family income rose as rapidly as family 
aspirations for a first-rate education. By i960 Abbot Academy was 
riding the crest of the postwar baby boom. Only the tensions of the 
sixties would prove powerful enough to dislodge the school from old 
complacencies and set it on a conscious search for a new future. 

Teachers and Students 
and How They Grew 

Even the most dedicated twentieth century 

adherents of Victorianism suffer from a 

progressive decrease in certainty. 

Stanley Coben, 1975 

The young are insatiable. 
Marguerite Hearsey to the Trustees, 1950 


Through the ten years following the War, Abbot melded new and old 
with its usual confidence. The half-dozen teachers who joined Abbot 
immediately after the War found themselves part of a vital community 
of women, proud of their profession and backed by long tradition. 
Perhaps the most colorful novice was Germaine Arosa. More students 
than ever wanted French, and the techniques of language teaching that 
had been developed during the War were turning teachers back to the 
oral-aural emphasis in which Abbot had specialized before Miss Bailey 
came on the scene, and away from the exclusive study of College 
Board grammar that had become all too common on Andover Hill. 1 
Since she was a professional diseuse, Mile. Arosa was a French speaker 
par excellence. She arrived at Abbot in the fall of 1945 after a decade 
of touring the nation and delighting audiences by her costumed re- 
citals of eighteenth-century French songs, monologues, and dances. 
Travel was exciting, but at age forty-three she wanted a home, and 
Miss Hearsey, certain that this artist could also teach, offered one. 

"She took a chance on me," says Germaine Arosa, who had never 
taught French to American girls in her life. She was entirely free of 
American pedagogical tradition, a law unto herself. It was bound to be 
difficult at first. Mile. Arosa was aware of great expectations for Abbot 


teachers but found it hard not simply to fall back on her own school- 
girl experience in an authoritarian gymnasium. The youngest girls 
were terrified; Miss Hearsey gently reassigned her to French II and 
III classes. Other colleagues helped too. Alice Sweeney's good-humored 
response to the new teacher's woes could transform a classroom di- 
saster into an experience to build on; Anna Roth helped her to pick 
herself up and go on when she thought she had failed as a teacher. 
She found a fellow artist and warm friend in Kate Friskin, who shared 
supervision of the Homestead girls with her and whose transatlantic 
experience spoke to her pride in the cultured Parisian society of her 
girlhood. Miss Hearsey had already encouraged her to go to Middle- 
bury for a summer's training, and the Trustees would later make a five 
hundred dollar grant to help her study eighteenth-century poetry at 
the Sorbonne so that she might add a fifth-year French course. 

Above all, she relied on Miss Hearsey. "Marguerite was a queen," 
says Mile. Arosa now. The Principal's trust in each of her appointees' 
capabilities became self-trust in the new teacher, and it was not long 
before Mile. Arosa was acting queenly herself. Some younger teachers 
and timid students found her energy, her physical beauty, and her self- 
confidence— verging, say a few, on arrogance— overwhelming. But if 
"arrogance is a common quality in the French," as one of Mile. Arosa's 
American colleagues insists, the Mademoiselle was an education all by 
herself. Among Abbot Academy's greatest strengths was its refusal to 
stamp teachers in a single mold: within its gates she could be "a woman 
of extremes" whose very presence was always interesting. 2 Abbot gave 
Germaine Arosa a fair field for her own growth— her "blossoming" as 
she calls it— and plenty of strong students and fellow teachers who de- 
lighted in her humor and refused to be intimidated by her. 

Another character off a stage was Emily Hale, the British-trained 
teacher of drama who came dropping names of renowned friends and 
associates, casting herself as she would ingeniously cast her students in 
the roles that allowed most scope for their abilities. For many years a 
college teacher of drama and literature, she had the reputation at 
Smith of being "an affected snob." T. S. Matthews, a more recent 
critic, terms her "arrogant," but also "intelligent, elegant, immensely 
discriminating," 3 a Boston Brahmin who conversed, acted and taught 
so supremely well that her poses reflected the realities of her talents. 
Matthews gives her a full chapter in his biography of T. S. Eliot, for 
Emily Hale was Eliot's lifelong friend. She was in love with him when 
he was an undergraduate at Harvard; she expected to marry him; and 
her friendship with him ran so deep that she was able to forgive his 
"impossible" marriage to another— "a temporary lapse"— and remain his 


closest woman friend and confidante for forty years, still hoping even- 
tually to be his wife, say her friends in both Andover and England. 4 
After Eliot left his wife in 1932, he turned to her for solace and com- 
panionship. It was she who took him to see Burnt Norton for the first 
time during one of her English holidays. She read many of his poems in 
typescript, apparently gave him valuable criticism of a few, and shared 
her enthusiasm for them with favorite Abbot students. 5 He visited her 
often; he wrote her over a thousand letters— which we may not see till 
the year 2020— but he never encroached too far on her spirited inde- 
pendence, though he was the one person for whom she would will- 
ingly have relinquished it. On three occasions during his visits to Ab- 
bot, he talked about his poetry with the Seniors or with students who 
were rehearsing Murder in the Cathedral, after instructing Miss Hear- 
sey not, under any circumstances, to advertise his presence, so that he 
could stay on good terms with his agent. 

Emily Hale made Abbot her home for the final ten years of her 
working life, leaving only after Marguerite Hearsey retired. 6 She found 
friends capable of high repartee all up and down Andover Hill, and 
fellow Abbot teachers found in her a wonderfully stimulating col- 
league. "A good person was Emily Hale, intelligent, sensitive, a really 
fine teacher," Alan Blackmer remembered. Though college entrance 
competition waxed ever fiercer during her years at Abbot, students 
clamored to act in her demanding productions just as though term 
papers did not matter. Eliot made his most enduring tribute to her in 
his Family Reunion: she is Aunt Agatha, says Matthews, "the strong- 
est character in the play and the only one who from the first is aware 
of what is really happening." 7 To her Abbot students she was much 
more than a stage presence. Says one, "She found and woke in me an 
imagination that no one else at Abbot had touched upon." 8 

Others who would stay long arrived by 1948: Dorothy Judd and 
Shirley Ritchie for athletics, Carolyn Goodwin for mathematics, and 
Mile. Marie Baratte, fresh from years of privation during the French 
Resistance, who found Abbot's New England simplicities luxurious by 
comparison. Several older teachers combined with Miss Hearsey's earli- 
est appointees and two of the Britishers to become a kind of "court" 
for the Principal, 9 a group of friends who went with her to her 
family's summer home in Jaffrey for several days each summer, who 
entertained her and themselves with a ritual of Canasta parties and 
country drives during the academic year. So generous with herself and 
so often sensitive to criticism, the Principal seemed especially to need 
the uncritical affection of others, and this group gladly provided it, 
somehow staying free of "that everlasting touching of the nerve" 

304 THE MORE THINGS CHANGE, 1945-1963 

which so often characterizes the faculty groups within "the small 
room" of a women's school or college. 10 "We all worked, we worked 
terribly hard," say two survivors, but when they played, they played. 
"Abbot was a ready-made social life for an unmarried woman"— "a 
family," our "whole adult life," these two remember. 11 

Miss Hearsey included all the faculty in dinners and receptions for 
speakers, for the mayoress of Andover, England, when she visited on 
the town's three-hundredth anniversary, or for the Trustees. Marie 
Baratte was not one of the in-group, but Miss Hearsey watched over 
her like "a wonderful mother," warmly encouraging this shy new- 
comer to give her best. 12 Interestingly, Miss Hearsey also managed 
special appreciation for the few who preferred independence to mem- 
bership in the "court." Carolyn Goodwin would not play Canasta on 
order, or wear the required decorative hat downtown if the weather 
suggested a woolen scarf to her instead. Other teachers were shocked 
when she and Alice Sweeney changed places in Chapel, upsetting the 
seniority seating so that Miss Sweeney, who had become quite deaf by 
1948, could hear better; but Miss Hearsey didn't care. She watched 
Miss Goodwin and Miss Sweeney go their ways and seemed to know, 
as subsequent principals would also know, that she needed the special 
perspective they brought from their distance. 

Once the War-related vacancies were filled, most teachers settled in 
with the veterans to stay. The faculty lost only one long-time col- 
league in these years: Walter Howe committed suicide. For years 
Howe's ebullience had tended to change without warning to mild 
depression; 13 more recently his sight had been failing. He tried to hide 
this by hours-long practice for each Sunday hymn or organ-prelude, 
but it got harder and harder. 14 Shortly after the Christmas service of 
1948, he turned on the gas in his kitchen and lay down to die. For 
Abbot, it was one of those personal tragedies which hurt a close com- 
munity so deeply— or hold so many embarrassing overtones— that they 
are seldom made known outside. It says much of Miss Hearsey that 
she did not hush it up but sent a brief letter to every student describ- 
ing what had happened, preferring the truth to schoolgirl fantasies. 
Howe was strictly an outsider to the community of women, of course, 
but at his best he had been a fine teacher, and he was long missed by 
faculty friends. 

Given Abbot's capacity to nourish a variety of excellent teachers, it is 


disconcerting to learn how many alumnae of this period found the 
place difficult or deadening for students. Elizabeth Marshall Thomas, 
'49, once sent Abbot a dime. 15 And though twenty years later she sent 
Abbot her daughter, her single year at the school left her hating the 
place. Elizabeth's one-year status made her an atypical student, for she 
never had the time most had to adjust— if not to resign themselves— to 
Abbot restrictions, and she came from an unusually liberal family who 
had granted her the independence her extraordinary intelligence 
seemed to command. Any girls' boarding school would have been 
alien; her perspective was that of the disaffected minority which all 
schools harbor. Still, in a small community like Abbot, the disaffected 
affect everyone, and their perceptions describe certain aspects of reali- 
ty. Elizabeth spent most of the free time she had with a "large, solid 
clique" of friends, most of whom had had "zero choice" about coming 
to Abbot, as she remembers. 16 Some were enrolled by their Abbot 
mothers, some shipped from South America for a proper New England 
education; others, like Elizabeth, were there on the recommendation 
of some college admissions official who felt the candidate needed a 
year of growing up before entering college. By Commencement time 
she had won entrance to Smith, and "Miss Hearsey was ready with a 
post-ceremony pitch to my father," who agreed, with a $250 contribu- 
tion, that Abbot had made it all possible. ("He had to: she was bigger 
than he was," laughs Elizabeth.) 

Now a writer and a college English instructor, Elizabeth remembers 
Abbot teaching as the best she has ever had. "College was easier than 
Abbot" says she— say scores of other alumnae. Biology under young 
Louise Coffin was "marvelously done," Miss Roth was a "magnificent, 
fiery teacher," Miss Sweeney was "nice, strict," a kind of missionary 
for her own "wonderful standards" of taste and workmanship. Ever 
since, sitting stubbornly through bad movies to the end, Elizabeth has 
remembered Miss Sweeney's advice to walk out. ("You lose more by 
staying than by leaving," she had said; "She's right," says Elizabeth.) 
Drama with Miss Hale was stimulating; the French teacher was sweet 
and kind in class. 

But out of class? To Elizabeth and her circle of friends, there were 
no out-of-class relationships with teachers. Adults seemed miles away 
in their own world unless they were enforcing the rules— watching for 
lipstick and improper footwear, or on patrol through the Phillips 
campus; "chaperoning" telephone calls 17 and checking mail for An- 
dover postmarks and return addresses to make certain Phillips boys and 
Abbot girls stayed incommunicado except on occasions arranged from 
above. Since Abbot began, Abbot students had more or less accepted 

306 THE MORE THINGS CHANGE, 1945-1963 

the space between teacher and girl. "When at school I looked up to 
my dear teachers as occupying a station wholly above me," an 1865 
graduate wrote to Miss McKeen, "and when you spoke to me so 
tenderly I would scarcely ever keep back the tears." 18 None of the 
students Elizabeth Marshall knew wept tears of happiness over teach- 
ers' attentions. Fewer each year accepted the adult-student gulf: in the 
decades following World War II, it became a problem to be solved. 
Among other things, Elizabeth Marshall Thomas has taught writing 
at the Massachusetts Correctional Institute in Walpole. There, she has 
observed, wardens and prisoners are purposely kept from making 
friends; now Abbot seems to her to have been a kind of prison which 
unconsciously used the same means of social control. To most alumnae 
the analogy would be extreme, but to the few it was apt. When one 
Senior who really liked the school was caught smoking for the first 
time and suspended, her friends felt they had no one to whom they 
could appeal to reverse the ruling, though undoubtedly there were 
willing ears on the faculty. 19 They only despaired— and returned to 
the studied rule-breaking which made out-of-class life bearable for 
them, checking off their sins in the rule book one by one. "We had 
never known such a loss of freedom," Elizabeth remembers; "the very 
dullness of it all" made you like academic work, she says, and num- 
bers of graduates through the mid 1960's echo her lament. 20 Student 
Government officers were the "trusties" who turned in offenders who 
refused to honor the honor system and turn in themselves. According 
to a 1954 alumna, the free-spirited developed "a whole system of de- 
ception" to get messages to Phillips boys— delivering notes through 
day students or dropping them under designated bushes. The same 
girl, though "an atheist then and now," took Confirmation classes 
downtown and actually got herself confirmed, "just to get out of the 
walls on Wednesday afternoons." 21 Elizabeth Thomas admits that she 
smokes precisely because Abbot so vehemently forbade it; others re- 
member the elaborate exhaust-piping system which one Draper Hall 
crowd ran from their "smoking closet" to an open window, and the 
drinking parties that climaxed the spring term of Senior year. Drinking 
was the worst thing you could do: temperance was an ancient cause 
at Abbot; Andover still tended to frown on any educator who bought 
a cocktail in public. It was in 1950 that the preps in Sherman House 
bloodied their fingers carving a secret compartment into the floor of 
Room E, a safe place for cigarettes, beer, a favorite onion extract that 
was 80 percent alcohol ("tastes God awful," wrote a 1957-58 resident), 
and— eventually— for twenty years' worth of secret letters to the next 
year's inmates written by tradition the night before Commencement. 


The letters instruct new girls how to hold a secret midnight party for 
town boys on the roof, and advise that "You can do almost anything 

here . . . Mrs. is so lazy . . . but watch out for Mrs. B., the maid. 

She prys around your room and tells Hatchet about everything." "But- 
ter up to Hatchet, D & B, and you'll go places. I know cause I didn't." 22 

For her part, Miss Hearsey blamed the rebels' restiveness on their 
families, who had provided their daughters with "little education at 
home in accepting any limitation in freedom." 23 But Elizabeth Marshall's 
questioning went beyond prohibitions against drinking (which she 
understood) to the core of Abbot's values. "Why was the faculty so 
intent on having the school go on in that crazy old fashioned way?" 
she wondered then and wonders still. "Abbot was the only place I'd 
heard of in 1949 where 1849 was still preserved." Though "Miss Hear- 
sey always listened" when students dared ask her such questions, 24 she 
could not give to such as Elizabeth a satisfactory answer. 

What grated most upon this alienated minority was being expected 
to admire and cheer the school when you were angry at it. "It was 
like East Germany," says a 1955 graduate. "You were just constantly 
being rounded up to do stupid things that nobody in their right minds 
would want to do, and having to sing songs about what a good time 
you were having." This woman's memories of forced daily worship 
in Chapel bear no resemblance to the "simple and reverent" services of 
the Means years. 25 Year after year, Student Council minutes describe 
the futility of "Stu G" efforts to control hymn-book slamming, gum- 
chewing, reading, whispering, and note passing. No longer was the 
Abbot constituency almost uniformly Protestant Christian and church- 
going. Some of the Catholic families— along with unchurched girls- 
chafed against the Bible requirement, and one girl left in 1948 because 
the school refused to release her from Bible study in order to spend 
more time in the art studio. 26 A few Seniors even refused to sing the 
"Parting Hymn," protesting that their lives and futures were entirely 
their own, not "portioned out to me" by God above. 27 Of the prayers 
Miss Hearsey led at Vesper Services which some students found so 
beautiful, Elizabeth Thomas says simply, "They were lost on me. I 
didn't let them in." 

Yet even those to whom teachers were "the enemy," found solace in 
friends and fellow sufferers. 28 Miss Hearsey's efforts to attract interest- 
ing applicants brought a brighter, more various group to the school 
than ever. The children of Latin American diplomats and businessmen 
took the place of the missionaries' daughters. Alumnae of certain 
classes 29 mention the intellectual stimulation of their peers before any 
of Abbot's more formal offerings. The rising national divorce rate 


meant that for a number of girls, Abbot friends became a kind of sur- 
rogate family; 30 these counted themselves lucky to have landed in a 
school where a tradition of care for fellow students had been passed 
from one student generation to another for more than a century. The 
secret Sherman House letters contain as many offers of comfort and 
help to new preps as enticements to rule-breaking. "No matter how 
you feel about Abbot," says one, "it's so terrific to be able to make 
friends like we have." "I learned . . . how to love" in this school and 
this room, says another. 31 

Students of almost all backgrounds enjoyed exclusive friendships 
and crushes that were much like those rich relationships of Harriet 
Chapell's day. "It was entirely accepted for tenth grade girls to fall 
in love with Seniors," one alumna of the early fifties remembers. 
Her own "powerful alliance" with a younger girl proved a source of 
strength to both, and grew into a friendship far more durable than the 
dozen red roses which the younger delivered to the elder— along with 
a "passionate letter"— once each week in the spring before graduation. 
These two did not feel the freedom Harriet and her friends had en- 
joyed to express this quasi-physical affection, but they poured into it 
their inmost selves, and each found in the other a confirmation of her 
worth as a person. "All my friends had tenth graders too," says this 
woman, who now combines a career as teacher and therapist with 
equal responsibilities as wife and mother. Though relatively few stu- 
dents were sophisticated enough to cope with the barriers Abbot 
threw up against natural and easy friendships with boys, these girl-to- 
girl affairs absorbed much psychic energy. Teachers seemed to under- 
stand their importance to the girls, and did not interfere; a few, like 
Emily Hale, encouraged them in a friendly low-key way by inviting 
"pairs" to tea. 

There was other comfort. Through most of the 1950's Abbot teach- 
ers shared their students' confinement to a large degree; many sympa- 
thized, and provided what parties and treats they could to make 
things jollier. 32 The adults had to wear hats and stockings downtown 
too. They also wondered (with amusement) whether they should be 
eating their potato chips with their forks, if their dining tables were in 
sight of the one over which Latin teacher Marion DeGavre presided, 
though most agreed with the student who later wrote "Mrs. D" of her 
admiration for "a person who knew what table manners were." 33 
Though they could skip the required Saturday evening "entertain- 
ments," they had to be on their corridors with their doors open two 
weekends out of three and every weekday after 4: 30. They could not 
have private telephones, or smoke in their rooms, or skip Tiffin or 


Chapel or lunch any more than students could. Germaine Arosa felt 
she "had had [her] life," and did not mind, but she knew how hard 
it was on younger teachers. Some teachers shared students' pet hates 
as well. Perhaps the most distasteful of the Abbot adults to such as 
Elizabeth Marshall was the secretary who guarded the entrance to 
Draper Hall like a local FBI agent, assiduously listening for boys' 
voices on the extension phone, checking male callers in with suspicion 
and out with relief; but some of the faculty also suffered from her 
zeal. Every time she spoke to you, remembers one teacher, "she would 
get something out of you that you didn't want to tell her," and report 
it all to Miss Hearsey, whether Miss Hearsey wanted to hear it or not; 
she recalls her initial pleasure at being invited downtown for tea by 
this woman, and then her surprise when the occasion proved to be a 
quiz session about her department chairman. Similarly, many younger 
faculty no more enjoyed downtown or dormitory patrols than the 
girls enjoyed being constantly watched. 

A few students admitted they'd brought it on themselves. Spy work 
among the girls seemed more and more necessary as the student lead- 
ers became ever less willing to push one another toward righteous- 
ness or judge peers who had gone astray. 34 The "Honor A" was given 
up in 195 1 after several years of irreconcilable faculty-student dispute 
over the nominees, 35 and fewer students were willing to report them- 
selves for offenses like listening to the last presidential election returns, 
as Carol Hardin Kimball dutifully did in 1952. Little concessions such 
as being allowed to wear make-up to the Exeter-Andover football 
game no longer thrilled the girls 36 but merely whetted appetites for 
more. 37 The "Citation" or rating system failed badly in 1946-47 under 
a weak Student Council, 38 and was abandoned altogether in the early 
fifties in favor of a shifting, uneasy combination of "honor rules" and 
general rules enforced largely by the faculty. It was small comfort for 
Alice Sweeney to reflect on how natural it was for girls who had 
taken unusual responsibilities in wartime to wish more freedom in 
peacetime, 39 or for Marguerite Hearsey to learn that other headmis- 
tresses were experiencing many of the same problems. 

Yet in spite of all, many students thrived at Abbot through the post- 
war decade. They say they didn't expect to be closer to faculty than 
worlds apart, or that they found a satisfying foothold in classroom 
interchange. If one rather shy 1955 graduate dreaded the way Mile. 
Baratte "humiliated" her in class no matter how hard she worked, 
most girls loved her as she loved them. 40 As might be expected from a 
girl afraid of the gentle Mile. Baratte, this alumna has extreme memo- 
ries of Mile. Arosa's treatment of weaker students— "she'd stomp on 


their fingers as they were clinging to the cliff." A Phillips teacher re- 
calls both her extraordinary knowledge of French drama and her way 
of embarrassing her clumsier actresses to tears in front of the Phillips 
actors during rehearsals of the Phillips-Abbot French plays ("she was 
terribly difficult to get along with, but she certainly "knew her 
stuff"); 41 and Germaine Arosa herself acknowledges that some stu- 
dents found her "a terror." Yet there are many others who loved her 
volatility, who thrived on her determination to face her students with 
their faults and show them how often success follows only on struggle 
and near failure. 42 Beth Warren had had no oral French in her Atlanta 
high school: "at first I was petrified" of Mile. Arosa, she says, but "the 
terror" brought her along with loving firmness. The French "stars" 
were the Mademoiselle's special pets. "She owned us, and she said so," 
says one, who also recalls Mile. Arosa's special gift to her: "She taught 
me to laugh at myself." 43 Ambitious French scholars often preferred 
her to the kinder, softer American teachers of which Abbot had its 
share. More than one alumna recalls Mile. Arosa's after-hours kind- 
nesses: a full evening spent listening to one girl whose worry over her 
parents' troubled marriage had made concentration on French verbs 
impossible, for example. Dorothea Wilkinson found her British-bred 
standards of excellence exactly consistent with Abbot's rigorous ex- 
pectations, and for years she passed them on to her English students. 
A few who knew Miss Hancock in her earlier days as a corridor 
teacher remember her as "The Virginia Creeper" whose crepe-soled 
shoes allowed for a swift approach to unsuspecting rule-breakers, 44 but 
many, many more are grateful for her enthusiasm for astronomy, the 
quiet skill with which she took a trouble-maker aside and talked her 
into a constructive act such as helping her to clean the telescope, her 
hospitality and warmth as Admissions Officer after 1957, or the extra- 
ordinary effectiveness with which both she and her younger colleague, 
Carolyn Goodwin, taught mathematics. Miss Tingley brought color 
with her voice teaching, say her students, and Miss Judd carried the 
spice of friendly sarcasm to the athletic field and later to her Spanish 
classes. 45 Many Student Council members who had tangled with teach- 
ers over school-government issues agreed that "the faculty are really 
pretty fair; they just need reasons." 46 Beth Chandler Warren says that 
the trick was to "pick out the best of what was there." There was true 
Christian kindliness if one spoke her need to others, as well as the 
institutional altruism expressed in the annual Christmas party for in- 
digent Andover children and every season's contributions to the Hind- 
man school or other good cause. 47 There was "the joy of an Andover 
spring, the mischief that was permitted at Intervale." 48 There was 


above all "the wonderful tranquility of the place," says one of the 
women who spent some of her adolescence smoking in the Draper 
Hall closet. Through its varied faculty, Abbot offered students "a 
whole spectrum of approaches to womanhood." By its strict ordering 
of community life, its very determination to take some decisions out 
of adolescent hands (Shall I drink or not? How much time shall I 
spend with this or that boy?), the school cleared time and space for 
that "peaceful collection of self" which is the young person's most 
important task. "How safe we were!" marvels another grateful alum- 
na. 49 Once they had got over what one Southern alumna calls "the 
shock of confinement," all who more or less accepted the rules found 
much the same support for growth and accomplishment throughout 
the earlier fifties that prewar students had enjoyed, and dissolved as 
readily into tears over the singing of "Abbot Beautiful" at Commence- 
ment. 50 And finally, almost every alumna speaks of Marguerite Hearsey 
with either awe or affection. Elizabeth Thomas says, "I remember be- 
ing very touched by her— I still am. She was honest, tough, very in- 
telligent. I liked her . . . she was doing very strong things: to be so 
out of touch with modern times required a lot of character." 51 

New Faces 

Miss Hearsey was still several years younger than Abbot's retirement 
age when she decided it was time for her to leave. At 207 students, the 
school was larger and more in demand in September 1954 than it had 
ever been. 52 The endowment Flagg and his colleagues had built was 
worth $1,000,000. The 125th Anniversary drive was nearly complete; 
the alumnae looked strong and willing, if not very affluent; new tradi- 
tions—an all-school picnic at Crane's Beach, the Principal reading 
Winnie-the-Pooh aloud at Intervale, and many others— had established 
themselves among the old; above all, the faculty seemed stable and 
competent. Miss Hearsey was secure enough not to feel indispensable; 
except for some student government problems, the school had got 
along well under Miss Sweeney during her year's leave in 1946-47. 
Early retirement seemed only sensible for a woman who had further 
plans of her own in mind: to try some new teaching projects while 
she had ample energy, and to set up housekeeping with her great 
friend Ella Keats Whiting, with whom she had lived for some years 
before taking her job at Hollins, and who was dean of Wellesley Col- 
lege at this time. Miss Hearsey also had, she says, a sense that some of 
the parents whose daughters she took in charge needed an empathy 

3 12 


44. Miss Hancock with a student in the Abbot observatory. 

4$. Christmas dolls dressed by Abbot students as gifts to the children of 

the Hinman School in Kentucky, 1949. Andover Art Studio photo. 



k * V- V ^ 

46. To South Church for Easter Services. Look Photo Service. 


she could no longer give them: she and they stood now a full genera- 
tion apart, and that, she thought, was too much. She felt herself losing 
rapport with some of the bright, aggressive girls she had once thor- 
oughly enjoyed, the ones who always, always wanted still more free- 
dom than she had just newly granted them. 53 She had reflected on the 
causes of this constant push at a talk to the Boston Abbot Club in 1949: 

It is an interesting phenomenon that while the average school- 
leaving age in the United States, and therefore the age of de- 
pendence, has been extended, there has accompanied this change 
a contradictory process, a steady lowering of what might be 
called the age of protection. Freedom of choice, freedom of 
action, removal of adult supervision begins earlier and earlier in 
our social life. 54 

By 1950 parents, too, were urging Abbot to loosen up in places; 55 yet 
boarding schools were expected to be just as responsible as ever for 
"dependent" adolescents, and Miss Hearsey felt that Abbot had eased 
up on rules to a point where they had reached a bare minimum. If 
girls insisted that "some of those rules were made to be broken," as 
one alumna concludes in retrospect, 56 well, better for rebellion to 
spend itself on forbidden eye shadow or fleeting, proscribed rendez- 
vous with Phillips boys than on boundless experiments in dissolution. 
Liberty was not a right but an achievement, a status one could amply 
earn through Abbot-imposed "discipline and work," as one alumna 
gratefully wrote her; 57 or, as Marguerite Hearsey herself said in 1949, 

The only truly free and released individual is the one who has 
voluntarily bound himself to something greater than himself. 58 

Perhaps most pervasive was Miss Hearsey's well-schooled knowledge 
that history always moves on, or, as Alice Sweeney terms it, "an in- 
stinctive sense that it was time for a change, that someone with a dif- 
ferent point of view could now direct more successfully the future 
development of the school." 59 She would miss everything, from Sun- 
day morning parent conferences and Student Council meetings to the 
planning sessions for each year's bazaar or prom, and those clumsy, 
touching notes from Hilltop swains like the tenth grader who wrote 
her his regrets just before the big dance: "Due to a case of mumps I 
regret my kind acceptance of your invitation." But she would not 
wait, complacent, for bitter ends. 

The most hardened advocates of a more self-centered freedom were 
moved by Miss Hearsey's announcement of her retirement. "It was as 
though doom had hit the school," says Beth Warren, '55, who recalls 


the tears wept at the unexpected news. Suddenly, no principal could 
be better. The ceremonial leave-takings were rich with the poetry of 
reminiscences, with presents given and received, with letters of appre- 
ciation. 60 There was just one reassurance: Mrs. Mary Hinckley Crane, 
Miss Hearsey's successor, was already working at the school, a teacher 
of English and history of art much admired and liked by all who had 
come to know her in her one year at Abbot. 61 

The Trustees had long searched for a new head at a time when ex- 
perienced women administrator-scholars were almost impossible to 
find. 62 A large group of the faculty expected Eleanor Tucker to be- 
come Principal, but "Tuck" herself felt that she was not ready. 63 The 
last generation of pioneering spinsters— whom even Elizabeth Thomas 
admired— was nearing retirement age, and relatively few college gradu- 
ates of the twenties and thirties had committed themselves to adminis- 
trative careers with the enthusiasm of Miss Hearsey's or Miss Bailey's 
contemporaries. At last Abbot's old friend Marion Park had suggested 
that the Trustees look in their own backyard, for one of Bryn Mawr's 
most promising graduates was right there. True, Mary Crane had 
never taken anything like the administrative responsibility that Abbot 
would require— she had been absorbed in taking care of her family— 
but she was a warm-hearted, intelligent and skillful teacher as well as 
a practicing archaeologist with considerable field experience. 64 She was 
also a mother with four young daughters of her own. A widow, she 
needed a home and a good education for her girls, but more impor- 
tant, thought the Trustees, these restless mid-twentieth-century stu- 
dents might find a family woman more accessible, more sympathetic 
to their own aspirations than they would another unmarried prin- 
cipal. 65 "Here is just the breath of fresh air Abbot needs," thought 
Helen Allen Henry as school opened in the fall of 1955. 66 

It certainly was a change. There were little children in the Abbot 
dining room for the first time ever: curly-haired Juju, just four years 
old; Lucy, a little older, who seemed to one maiden teacher "always 
to be crying"; the two eldest, junior high school age, doing their best 
to help their busy mother field her students' questions and oversee 
Juju's food intake at the same time. There were also men on the aca- 
demic faculty. Paul Werner, a rather elderly part-time mathematics 
teacher, who came with his abrasive and energetic English-teacher 
wife to live in Ripley House, felt conspicuous and self-conscious at 
first; 67 but John Iverson, Abbot's first full-time male teacher, soon 
moved into Cutler House next door, where his wife added ten Abbot 
boarders to the two small Iversons already in her charge. 

Almost immediately, Mrs. Crane put her stamp upon a new Abbot 


catalogue. Photographs of smiling, busy girls crowded out the somber 
buildings that had graced catalogues of the Hearsey years. Sunday was 
still described as "a day of quiet," but the school was no longer labeled 
"definitely Christian," and special mention was given to the Abbot 
girl's opportunities to meet the boys from the Hilltop. The fall "mixer" 
was Mrs. Crane's first social innovation. It seemed to be a great suc- 
cess: certainly it attempted to fulfill the promise many prospective 
parents had seen in Abbot's position half way up Andover Hill, a 
promise— Miss Hearsey herself acknowledged— that brought many can- 
didates to Abbot in the first place. Mrs. Crane agreed with her prede- 
cessor on the value of a self-sufficient single-sex school, but her em- 
phasis was slightly different. To Marguerite Hearsey the very close- 
ness of the two schools had meant that Abbot must guard its girls all 
the more strictly. 68 Under Mary Crane, the censoring of telephone 
calls and the confiscation of Phillips-Abbot mail would gradually dis- 
appear; in time girls could actually sit with boys during the second 
half of a football game and walk with their callers in the Grove at 
specified hours Saturday afternoon. Similarly, Mrs. Crane agreed with 
her predecessor that "children are less and less disciplined at home" 
but she was willing to entertain the possibility "that we really do have 
too many rules." 69 Mrs. Crane encouraged the "town meetings" which 
brought together all interested students and faculty once a term 
or so for an open discussion of school problems. Lights-out time 
for older girls crept later and later from the original 9:30 curfew, till 
Seniors might stay up till midnight with special permission. Through- 
out her eleven-year tenure, Mary Crane would search always for the 
reasonable response to the students' "annual crusade for change," 70 
instead of taking refuge in tradition, as a few older faculty wished 
she would do. 

At Abbot, however, tradition was so powerful that substantive 
change was never made if stylistic change would do. Off-campus leaves 
were a little more plentiful by the early 1960's, but Abbot still dic- 
tated its girls' dress and demeanor on trains and planes and whenever 
they were in Boston, Andover, or nearby towns. No proliferation of 
chaperoned occasions could disguise the prohibition against meeting 
any boy outside of "the supervision of the school," 71 or talking with 
male passersby for more than two (later five) minutes. (Teachers were 
obliged to time such encounters whenever they noticed them.) The 
silver napkin rings and linen napkins were still standard equipment 
brought from home. Mrs. Crane's deep religious faith, as well as her 
constant effort to act it in her daily dealings with students and faculty 
and to communicate it in Chapel, helped to continue Abbot's Chris- 


tian tradition against mounting odds. 72 Though there were a few new 
fourth- and fifth-level language and mathematics courses and more 
girls took five courses in response to college demands, the number of 
course choices remained about the same through i960. Except in 
studio art and in one English course, the content changed little. The 
English and Latin teachers continued to defend the value of Latin as 
a major course, much as Miss Hearsey had done in an elaborate argu- 
ment-by-memo with Phillips Headmaster Fuess just after the War; 73 
Ann Werner taught a section of Latin I as well as Advanced Place- 
ment English because she was certain that English grammar could 
best be understood by those steeped in Latin grammar. 74 A 1957 
graduate says that Mrs. Crane's own once-a-week Senior English class 
"was the only time during my stay at Abbot that I was taught any- 
thing about current trends or thought in the U.S.A. We knews lots 
about ancient Rome, but almost nothing about modern times." 75 

The biggest difference between the Hearsey and Crane administra- 
tion came in the two women's styles of leadership, for Mrs. Crane was 
neither mover nor shaker by nature: rather than dominate events she 
would steer them along their natural course. If faculty or Trustees re- 
buffed one of her proposals, such as her fervent request for a regular 
psychiatric consultant to help the occasional girl in serious trouble, 
she backed off and did not pursue the issue. "Plus 9a change, plus 
c'est la meme chose," Mary Crane wrote the alumnae in the fall of 
1964; 76 by the time she resigned in 1966 there seemed no doubt that 
she had done all she could do to accomplish what the Trustees seemed 
to expect of her when they hired her: keep this fine school going 
much as it is. 77 

Teachers Again 

"Mary Crane's great contributions were her warmth as a person and 
her interest in getting good faculty to continue," says Eleanor Tucker. 
Mrs. Crane learned immediately that mere interest in competent teach- 
ers was no longer enough. The old definition of the Abbot teacher's 
responsibilities was one tradition she felt should not be left to "the 
momentum" of the Hearsey years which otherwise sustained the school 
through most of the Crane era. 78 During her last few years at Abbot, 
Marguerite Hearsey had found it ever more difficult to recruit live-in 
teachers who would supervise dormitory corridors, take their turns at 
weekend chaperonage and bell duty, and so forth. 79 Emily Hale agreed 
to return in 1948 only if she could move to an apartment. 80 A few 

3 i8 


47. Mary H. Crane, Principal, 1955-1966. 

teachers already lived outside the student corridors on the fourth floor 
of Draper; now they, too, moved off the campus. Miss Hearsey set up 
a weekend refuge for off-duty faculty in one of the Abbot-owned 
houses on Morton Street; she puzzled over how to make "a more adult 
form of living" possible in an age when students nocked to the cor- 
ridor teacher's room to listen to her radio or play their records far 
more often than they came for quiet counsel. 81 In 1944 she had begun 
to organize Teacher Work-Load Study Committees; new ones were 
formed every &vz or six years. Yet one wonders if her heart would 
accept any drastic change. Either the committees decided that teach- 
ers' corridor duties could not be sacrificed without great loss to 
teacher-student relationships, 82 or teachers found they could not bring 
themselves to press their complaints with a Principal who worked so 
tirelessly herself and held so much trust in her faculty's capacity to 
do likewise. 83 

Mary Crane poured no less energy into her job, but she understood 
from personal experience how much adults need some privacy. She 


herself had required a separate house as a condition of her hiring, and 
it would be a constant struggle for her to keep students from using 
her home as a drop-in social center, a struggle she generously gave up 
as her own daughters became Abbot students and sought a place to 
entertain their friends, both male and female. 84 Besides, she was now 
the one who had to find new teachers, full sixteen of them in her first 
two years, half of these corridor teachers. It looked like high time to 
implement the recommendations made by Miss Hearsey's last Teacher 
Work-Load Study Committee. The group had divided on the question 
whether to substitute house mothers for corridor teachers, but they 
made many suggestions for getting the academic teacher out from 
under the blizzard of trivial duties she had been expected to undertake. 

Progress would be slow. Mrs. Crane surveyed the field from her 
position as chairman of the Teacher Recruitment Committee of the 
NAPSG, and kept in touch with the efforts of her colleagues in other 
schools. Her wish to create a more natural community by inviting 
men to teach would remain hollow, for few men teachers would work 
for the pay Abbot could offer as long as they were in high demand in 
boys' private schools or in the public schools: John Iverson stayed 
just one year before seeking a greener pay envelope. The new Yale 
and Harvard Master of Arts in Teaching programs, which by their 
concentration on scholarly disciplines promised to overcome the dis- 
parities between private-school recruiting standards and those of 
public schools, availed Abbot little where public high schools tempted 
the M.A.T.'s with salaries Abbot could not match and a democratic 
rhetoric to which many idealists responded. Mrs. Crane did hire several 
new college graduates who did not want state certification. 85 Though 
she was not an aggressive recruiter, 86 some able women came her way 
looking for a first job. She also persuaded the Trustees to create po- 
sitions for several excellent part-time teachers, some of them highly 
educated Phillips Academy wives who preferred jcbs of their own to 
dispensing tea and sympathy on the Hilltop. 

Finally, beginning in i960, she allowed the corridor teachers to 
move out of the dormitories one by one, replacing them with house 
mothers. Only a handful— Marie Baratte was one— preferred to stay. 
Now new candidates found Abbot more attractive. The old guard had 
got what they had earned— and they moved thankfully into the apart- 
ments Abbot opened up for them in Sunset or other houses. In time, 
most realized that something had been lost— though never regretfully 
enough to return to corridor duty. Kate Friskin was now only a music 
teacher, not a counselor who would leave piano practicing to comfort 
a miserable Junior in her special charge. Those few like Eleanor 


Tucker who could be simultaneously a jolly friend and a competent 
teacher 87 were no longer so accessible as before. Distant though facul- 
ty had seemed to students under the old system, they were more so 
now. "We were a family," says Germaine Arosa, "and then quite sud- 
denly, it was finished. There was no more family: there was a teacher 
and girls." 

For some of the older teachers this sense of loss was sharpened by 
Marguerite Hearsey's absence. "She was the head and we were part 
of the school through her," Mile. Arosa remembers. A few of the 
"court" became the core of a new in-group, which took Mary Crane 
in hand, advised and helped her from day to day (or, in one young 
teacher's view, "told her what to wear or what to do"). But it wasn't 
the same. Mary Crane was terribly busy with students and daughters. 
The Friday night Canasta-and-talk sessions at Sunset were no more; 
rare now were those parties for speakers or Trustees from which Miss 
Hearsey's teachers had regularly drawn a sense of the larger signifi- 
cance of their work. 88 Though many outside the old Hearsey "court" 
found Mary Crane extraordinarily accessible and kind, or admired her 
scholarly mind and enjoyed the enthusiasm with which she spoke to 
the receptive (including students) about "the things she loved" in 
classical art or architecture, 89 she could not spare emotional energy 
for many close collegial friendships. 90 And because "we were not in- 
cluded," as one teacher put it, some felt less obligated toward the 
school. 91 Thus an inevitable result of the residential change was that 
the Principal herself must take on still more of the students' complex 
problems, this at a time when the school was larger and more un- 
wieldly than it had ever been before. Mrs. Crane talked endlessly with 
unhappy girls or anxious parents, so much, say a few, that some rou- 
tine parent communications were neglected. A girl in trouble came 
first, or a grandmother who found herself suddenly responsible for 
her Abbot granddaughter— her daughter caught in the double bind of 
a mental breakdown and a messy divorce— and needed help right away, 
lots of it. 92 Routine must stand aside while Mary Crane listened and 
with compassion counseled the whole family. 

While some left dorms, others left the school. Gone now were the 
secretaries and administrative assistants like Barbara Humes, Mrs. Ruth 
Reeves, and Gerda Kaatz who had been willing to work nights and 
weekends as Miss Hearsey's "stalwart lieutenants." 93 Some of their 
chaperonage and extra office duties fell again on younger teachers, 
though Mrs. Crane repeatedly suggested that the Trustees hire enough 
staff to release teachers for teaching. 94 The more Phillips-Abbot social 
occasions there were, the more chaperones seemed needed. Dorothy 


Judd guarded the Abbot gate on mixer nights, and watched the hedge 
and Circle, others were sent on "bush patrol" during every tea dance 
and prom weekend. Mrs. Crane felt each teacher who drove a car 
must take her turn checking the routes of "approved walks" to pre- 
vent unapproved rendezvous; and well might the faculty worry, for 
students say that the mixers and tea dances bred more of these than 
ever. Resident faculty could still smoke only in Baronial— must still, if 
they wished to go out for a drink, find a place to do it where they 
could be sure neither Abbot parent nor Trustee would see them. 95 

Given all this, given the availability of jobs elsewhere, it is not sur- 
prising that teachers went and came with increasing rapidity. The 
average length of tenure fell from nine years in 1954 to 6 l / 2 in 1964— 
or 4 ! /4 if one discounts the six veterans remaining from the early Hear- 
sey years. Abbot was not alone. Mary Crane brought numerous re- 
ports from professional meetings that other private and public schools 
were finding it difficult to hire, and keep, good teachers. 96 A few came 
fresh to Abbot from college and left in two or three years to marry, 
but both found and gave much strength while they were there. Blair 
Danzoll, who later became Headmistress of the Bryn Mawr School, 
was one of these. Students recall her superb classics teaching— and she 
thinks of Mary Crane's confidence in her as a crucial ingredient of her 
willingness to dare large tasks. Hilary Andrade-Thompson served as 
English Department Chairman just two years before returning to her 
native England, but she is remembered as an extraordinary teacher and 
colleague. A few others remained long: Pamela Tinker, a skillful 
science teacher, came from England under Miss Hearsey to stay a 
single year— and stayed for ten under Mrs. Crane. Twelve of the 
Crane appointees taught until the merger of Abbot and Phillips in 
1973; eight of these stayed on at the new coeducational school. 97 

The new teachers brought fresh life to traditional courses. Students 
who took studio art with Virginia Powel wanted to spend so much 
time painting that Mrs. Crane agreed the course should receive full 
credit and expanded the studio on the fourth floor of Draper. English 
teachers Jean St. Pierre and Barbara Sisson worked with the History 
Department to coordinate literature and history in the tenth and 
twelfth grades; history teacher Lise Witten, fluent in three languages 
and expert in European art, could teach interdisciplinary courses all 
alone, but she joined with others to enrich both their teaching and 
her own. French and Spanish teachers set up a small, excellent 
language laboratory, a project for which Dorothy Judd took prime 

Not wishing to stir a fuss over her retirement after nearly forty 


years of teaching, Kate Friskin quietly left "on sabbatical" in 1959, but 
Margot Warner and a series of excellent piano teachers carried on Ab- 
bot's music tradition. Mary Crane had long wanted to add Asian his- 
tory to the curriculum; in Caroline Rees she found an enthusiast to 
teach it. Eleanor Tucker took over from Alice Sweeney as Director of 
Studies and college adviser after Miss Sweeney's retirement in 1957; 
from this position she did much to bind the senior and junior faculty 
together. Considering the handicaps under which Abbot and most 
other girls' schools labored to get and keep good faculty, it is a tribute 
to Mary Crane that Abbot teaching was carried on for the most part 
at standards as high as ever. 

Thus did Abbot's academic success overlay communal tensions and 
a conscious refusal to bend to increasingly insistent changes in the 
larger society. Such conservatism had proven wise in the past; it 
seemed the most comfortable stance for an old school to fall back 
on now. 

History in the Making 

History in the making is often uncomfortable. 

Mary H. Crane, 

Principal's Report, 30 November 1959 

Grand Issues, Cautious Responses 

Private schools were not left alone to adjust in their own quiet ways 
to problems of teacher recruitment and the push-pull of contemporary 
mores. During the years that Abbot was searching for a modus vivendi 
with its bright, restive students, critics in high places were insisting 
that these very youngsters would be better off in public high schools, 
where they could both add intellectual vitality to student bodies 
grown flabby on misdirected progressivism and gain in democratic 
sensibilities from the public school mix of social classes, creeds, and 
ethnic groups. In June 1952 Miss Hearsey quoted to the Trustees the 
speech given by President James Conant of Harvard to the American 
Association of School Administrators proposing an end to the nation's 
"dual system of education" and urging that "all the youth of the com- 
munity attend the same school, irrespective of family or cultural back- 
ground." 1 

Private school educators were aghast; they had not forgotten the 
influence commanded by Charles W. Eliot, the last Harvard President 
who had mounted the rostrum for public education. Conant's attack 
climaxed a season of anxiety for all independent and parochial schools. 
They were already uneasy about the decline in applications that 
marked the Depression babies' arrival at secondary school age, for this 
generation was all too small. Unlike more than half of New England's 
girls' schools, Abbot remained full during 1948-50, the leanest years, 2 
but Miss Hearsey wrote anxiously to the Trustees of her fears for 
future enrollments, 3 and worried about the ill feeling against non- 
public schools that was bound to emerge from the controversy over 
the Congress' first substantial effort to aid secondary schools. 4 During 
that effort parochial schoolmen had lobbied hard for funds, made 


many enemies for the nonpublic school, and retreated in bitterness 
after having largely failed. Independent school people found only 
crumbs of comfort in the more moderate position Conant took the 
following year, when he insisted that at the least all who love de- 
mocracy should beat back the efforts of nonpublic school advocates— 
principally "powerful church leaders"— to gain a share in public funds. 5 

The debate over the role of private schools in national life was 
many-sided and complex. Conant championed the comprehensive pub- 
lic high school at a time when Cold War rhetoric had thrown all 
public schools on the defensive and provided Abbot Academy with 
some embarrassing allies. Looking fearfully at totalitarian Russia, the 
communization of the Catholic East European nations, and the "fall" 
of China, many Americans deplored "Godless statism"; extreme critics 
characterized public schools as centers for propagating a revolutionary 
new social order. 6 More analytical critics like Arthur Bestor and 
Albert Lynd made powerful thrusts at the self-perpetuating educa- 
tionist cartel that had persuaded most state governments to adopt the 
teacher certification systems that kept them in work, and nourished a 
wasteful, clumsy state education bureaucracy larger in New York 
State than in all of England. 7 Conant had his answer ready: granted 
the public schools have problems— let all citizens pitch in to improve 
them, and teach their children democracy by practicing it. "It may 
well be that the ideological struggle with Communism in the next 
fifty years will be won on the playing fields of the public high schools 
of the United States," he wrote, in all seriousness. 8 

It is difficult now to imagine how grave the ideological struggle 
seemed at the time— so grave that rational citizens and their public rep- 
resentatives were willing to tolerate blatant attacks on the civil liberties 
of individuals and on the integrity of educational institutions. Senator 
Joseph McCarthy is often blamed, but it was this demagogue's massive, 
approving audience which made McCarthyism possible. With other 
private schools, Abbot Academy offered mild but steady resistance to 
the general hysteria. Marguerite Hearsey had done her share of worry- 
ing over "the ideologies of Communism and fascism being spread or 
practised right here in our own country," 9 but she and most of her 
independent school colleagues were determined not to overreact. They 
looked for the special contributions they might make within a society 
that had become polarized over issues of ideology and academic free- 
dom. Private schools are uniquely positioned to resist national fetishes, 
and the Headmistresses Association gladly defined "the Responsibility 
of the Schools in a Democracy Challenged by Communism" as the ob- 
ligation to "put great emphasis on civil rights," to "act when they 


are attacked," to support the United Nations, to keep in mind "our 
own national shortcomings" while continuing to teach "the great 
values of the American tradition." 10 In spite of the noises heard from 
the many states wishing to tighten up private school accreditation re- 
quirements, the NAPSG determined to resist all state efforts to sacri- 
fice teachers' independence or their own high hiring standards." 11 Miss 
Hearsey kept the Trustees informed of various state efforts to elimi- 
nate school and college books written by or about Communist or 
Socialist sympathizers, and of Massachusetts legislators' proposal that 
all schools rename the English language "the American language." 12 
The Trustees agreed with her that students should have full access to 
material about Communism, even though Abbot should never know- 
ingly hire a Communist. 13 It was not an idle possibility. All private 
educators knew about the bitter teachers' strike of 1949 at Putney 
School. Putney, so long accused of harboring Communists, actually 
found it had a radical labor organizer in its midst, a young man who 
persuaded fellow teachers to organize under the CIO and demand 
higher pay, tenure provisions, and faculty representation on an inde- 
pendent board of trustees. 14 

Inside Abbot, teachers met this national ferment with a general ef- 
fort to do better what they were already doing. One group of critics 
had excoriated American schools for failing to teach basic academic 
skills, and for neglecting those gifted students who should be prepar- 
ing to lead the race against Communism. Abbot faculty tightened the 
school's testing and placement procedures, wondered if its long tradi- 
tion of heterogeneous class sections was wise after all, 15 and set up a 
noncredit seminar in Greek for twenty-five especially able students, 
who met with Phillips classics scholar Allston Chase once a week. 
President Conant had taken educators to task for the ill fit between 
school and college which pinched the most able students. The educa- 
tors of Andover Hill could accept this charge: for years some Phillips 
and Abbot graduates— like highly capable students everywhere— had 
found freshman courses dull and dulling. Pushed by Dean Alan Black- 
mer, Phillips Academy designed and the Ford Foundation funded a 
study to discover whether advanced placement in college might not be 
possible for such young people. Miss Hearsey read every report com- 
ing out of "The Andover Study," kept in touch with the few Abbot 
graduates who had entered college a year early, and sent question- 
naires to other college-going alumnae to try to find out— among other 
things— whether Abbot's education had been proof against the alarm- 
ingly high dropout rate for college women. 16 Skeptical of a full-blown 
Advanced Placement program, the school moved cautiously. The fac- 


ulty instituted fourth-year French and mathematics well before Miss 
Hearsey's retirement, but Miss Hearsey, Alice Sweeney, and Mary 
Crane knew far too much of the complexity of talent to go along with 
the fifties fad for exclusive "A-T" (Academically Talented) tracks. 
When Marguerite Hearsey was asked in 1959 to address the NAPSG 
on the subject "gifted youth," she ignored the expected topics and 
presented instead an inspired and scholarly account of John Keats's 
education and upbringing. The institution of a fifth-year French class 
in 1956 had more to do with Mrs. Crane's and Aiiss Sweeney's feeling 
that Germaine Arosa and her Seniors should be rewarded for moving 
swiftly through fourth-level French than it did with keeping up with 
the Joneses or the Phillipses in both Exeter and Andover. 17 Like Miss 
Hearsey, Mary Crane gave special attention to the academic place- 
ment of applicants with unusual records or home problems, ably as- 
sisted by Eleanor Tucker, Director of Studies and college adviser from 
1956 to 1966. Their careful counseling of students and parents, much 
of it incredibly time-consuming, could not be conveyed in catalogues 
or proud articles in professional periodicals; it was taken for granted 
as part of a private school's responsibility to its clientele. 18 

After 1956 Mary Crane and the Trustees would draw on the work 
of the Sputnik-inspired Physical Science Study Committee and similar 
groups to revise Abbot's science curriculum. The National Science 
Foundation would eventually spend a billion dollars to develop the 
new courses, and Abbot would hire a series of teachers trained in 
NSA-sponsored institutes to bring the new physics and chemistry to 
its students. The New England Association of Colleges and Second- 
ary Schools (NEACSS) accreditation committee came in 1958 to 
praise the school's general program— and to recommend more select 
A.P. sections. Abbot responded to the nudge by establishing fourth- 
year Spanish and sixth-year French courses; Principal and Trustees 
created special Advanced Placement English sections, bringing in Ann 
Werner— "one of those interesting, difficult Abbot characters," says 
Virginia Powel— from her chairmanship of Wheeler School's English 
department and her work on Advanced Placement testing for the 
CEEB. They continued, however, to insist on a well balanced general 
education, rather than countenance the early "majors" that were the 
rage in some high schools, or push students beyond sense to build 
grade-point averages that would impress the colleges. "Abandon fear," 
Miss Hearsey had told Abbot students in 1944. "Do not work for 
grades but for mastery of the subject." Mary Crane rang her own 
changes on this theme again and again. Nor would Abbot stretch 
teaching resources to accommodate a handful of Advanced Place- 


ment candidates in subjects other than English. 19 A joint Phillips- 
Abbot A.P. program would have been a simple solution to the latter 
problem, but no one seems to have mentioned it in public. 

Abbot must have been doing something right, for applications in- 
creased faster than ever throughout the fifties. There was more to it 
than War babies, 20 than general prosperity, or the Eisenhower admin- 
istration's benign attitude toward private institutions. The critics of 
public schools had created a fresh constituency for private schools. 
Conant's insistence that far too many parents and private schools 
pushed inept scholars into college did nothing to dampen enthusiasm 
for college preparatory programs that guaranteed both higher educa- 
tion and higher social status. 21 In spite of Supreme Court integration 
rulings, in spite of heroic efforts to create the democratic high schools 
of Conant's dream, the ethnically and economically diverse communi- 
ties that could support them were becoming ever fewer. Some of 
the best high schools emerged from one-class suburbs whose homo- 
geneity made the Abbot community seem positively polyglot. Small 
schools like Abbot looked inviting beside most of those enormous new 
comprehensive schools which President Conant had inspired, with 
their two or three thousand students and their often-mechanical or- 
ganization of academics and activities. 22 Again and again parents and 
alumnae mention how flexible and sympathetic Abbot was when con- 
fronted with students behind in Latin, say, and ahead in mathematics 
or some other subject. 23 Finally, there was the private school's basic 
appeal: exclusiveness. Local Andover parents who fretted over their 
status as the "right" people sometimes sent a daughter to Abbot to con- 
firm it. 24 President Conant could not prevent a pair of Illinois parents— 
both transplanted Easterners— from noticing with horror their daugh- 
ter's midwestern accent and shipping her to Abbot for a proper New 
England education, 25 nor could he keep hundreds of Abbot alumnae 
from urging Abbot on relatives and friends. 26 

Shoring Up an Island 

Generally speaking, new candidates and their families were attracted 
to Abbot itself, rather than to Andover town and Abbot together, as 
in years past. The self-contained town of prewar days, with narrow 
roads leading out from the Abbot campus to woods or farmlands, was 
no more. Long country walks were rare now, and even the skating 
pond that Abbot once shared with a few neighbors had been aban- 
doned for a flooded rink on the tennis courts, where the girls could 


skate on a smoother surface under watchful eyes. Movies and radio, 
then television, had all but eliminated townspeople's attendance at Ab- 
bot's Saturday lectures and student recitals; most of the town's newer 
residents had no interest in Abbot Academy. Subdivisions were laid 
over the hay meadows to make more room for the engineers who 
worked in the new Raytheon missile plant or staffed the electronics 
industries on Route 128, now that superhighway construction had 
brought Boston closer than ever. New families came to take advantage 
of Andover's public schools, not of "in-grown" Abbot Academy. 27 
The new population soon outnumbered the old. Those town connec- 
tions that Abbot had sustained through its Treasurer had lapsed one 
by one as the ageing Flagg resigned from the various Town Meeting 
and South Church committees where he and his friends had once held 
sway, while the newcomers gradually won a loud voice in town 
affairs. More than ever before, Abbot was on its own. 

Though none of the Trustees proposed major changes at this time, 
the Board took several steps to strengthen the school and adjust its 
administrative routines to new conditions. It was a strong group and 
getting stronger, which was well, for several of its members would 
eventually make decisions for Abbot more momentous than those 
made by any Abbot Board since the mid-nineteenth century. Philip K. 
Allen, P.A. '29, a distinguished local resident, came on the Board in 
1948, to stay, with a two-year hiatus, until 1973, and to carry through 
the merger of Abbot and Phillips Academies. Allen had briefly taught 
both at Phillips and at the progressive Cambridge School, and was An- 
dover's state senator and leading Republican at the time of his election 
to the Board. Through the years his experience as director of several 
other schools and of the Boston Symphony was to prove invaluable. 
Two alumnae would serve long and vigorously: Helen Allen Henry, 
'32, later Helen Anderson (1945-73), an d J ane B. Baldwin, '22, invest- 
ment banker and trust officer (1948-1970). In 1964 Alice Sweeney 
would join them. Caroline Stevens Rogers, from North Andover's 
public-spirited Stevens Mill family was not an alumna herself because 
her mother, an Abbot day scholar, had found Miss McKeen's Abbot 
"so terribly old-fashioned," but she was fascinated with education and 
"thrilled to help." 28 J. Radford Abbot, P.A. 19 10, the resourceful archi- 
tect of the pre-war Draper Hall additions; Mrs. Frances Jordan, of 
Cambridge; the Reverend Sidney Lovett, Chaplain of Yale and alumna 
husband; and Margaret Clapp, President of Wellesley— all brought 
fresh ideas from outside Abbot and were glad to work under Chair- 
man Robert Hunneman, although Barton Chapin was sorely missed 
after his retirement. All were to become powerful contributors to 


future plans. 29 And although Flagg had given over many of his duties 
to a Trustee Investment Committee and a salaried Assistant Treasurer 
after bringing Abbot through two financially chaotic postwar years, he 
remained the Board's essential link with Abbot's traditional strengths, 
speaking up always for continued independence from government en- 
croachment, never forgetting the small helps that meant so much to 
Abbot teachers. ("I want you to take this letter of credit with you, 
just in case of emergency," he said to a protesting but grateful Mar- 
guerite Hearsey as she embarked for her European trip in 1946.) 
George Ezra Abbot had joined the Board in 1937 and accepted the 
chairmanship in 1952— "to keep Flagg from running Abbot pipes down 
under my backyard," he said, not entirely in jest, for he respected 
Flagg's ability to accomplish anything Abbot needed done. Though he 
died shortly afterward, his effectiveness was long remembered. 

The War's end, the school's continued popularity, and fast-rising 
costs impelled Abbot toward long-term planning. 30 Yet again Miss 
Hearsey was agitating for a financial campaign, this one leading to- 
ward Abbot's 125th Anniversary in 1954. The Board sought rational 
answers to the problem of Abbot's optimum size— and found none but 
the seating capacity of the Chapel (225), the fit between classroom 
space and the school's maximum class size of fifteen, and the Principal's 
hunch that a relatively small school works best. With no more than 
200 girls in her charge, Marguerite Hearsey could think of each as an 
individual, and often handle special problems herself. Principal's files 
bulge with long letters to students and their parents— for example, to a 
Senior just expelled following the Student Council's decision that she 
had not quite met the terms of probation; to the Senior's conservative 
mother ("Although you are deeply disappointed about this I hope you 

realize that herself is also suffering because of it, and I hope that 

you may be able to forgive her . . . We must have faith in her and 
help her turn this hard experience into good"), to two other schools' 
heads describing the girl's disciplinary troubles ("she is at an important 
turning point") and recommending her as a vigorous person of much 
promise; then finally, in April, to the college where this young woman 
had applied. In a small school parents could readily be counseled about 
their daughter's academic placement, or congratulated at her election 
to an important student office. At any rate, the Abbot buildings could 
hold only so many. The Chapel seemed to be the ultimate limitation, 
for in a crucial sense the Chapel was Abbot, having held since 1829 
those recitations, those Draper Readings, and all those prayers of 
women old and young seeking after knowledge, goodness, and courage. 

Though she was uninterested in expansion, Miss Hearsey hoped for 


one more dormitory to replace the homelike but inefficient cottages. 
The Trustees demurred. For several reasons, funds free to fuel expan- 
sion of plant were in short supply. Emergency repair costs betrayed 
the too frugal maintenance schedules of past years. As Flagg gradual- 
ly gave up his formal responsibilities to Gardner Sutton, the capable 
Assistant Treasurer, Abbot lost the secretarial help that Flagg and his 
Merrimack Mutual office staff had been donating for decades. Replace- 
ments must be hired, enough of them to handle the mounting paper 
work attendant on new state regulations, federal school lunch aid, and 
so forth. Thus nonacademic expenses climbed, and income had to rise 
to meet them. 

Teacher's salaries continued as a major concern. 31 Although Abbot 
fared extraordinarily well through the immediate postwar shortage of 
teachers, the mid-fifties found the school unprepared to meet the 
salary demands of either young or older teachers. At last the Trustees 
began to feel that they could no longer impose on the loyalty of old- 
timers. Teacher applicants knew they were in a buyer's market; 32 
furthermore, the War had raised women's pay from the half of men's 
wages which women had received for the same work in 1937 to about 
two thirds a decade later. By 1955 senior teachers in Andover's public 
schools were receiving $4,200-4,400 a year; Abbot with its $3,400 
average for long-tenured teachers, was losing its position just above 
the median for girls private schools. 33 Staff members also felt restive. 
Responding to a polite but forceful protest from the grounds staff, 
Flagg had raised the nine men's wartime pay 20 percent from the 
$26-$43 a week they were receiving in 1941, but by 1950 the men 
were comparing their wages with those of the Phillips staff, and 
grumbling. 34 The problem was how to raise all salaries without at the 
same time raising the tuition ($1,800 a year in the early fifties) well 
beyond the rate that was giving Abbot an edge in the competition 
against comparable schools. No one seriously considered more drastic 
measures, such as halving the service staff (fifty-seven strong by 1961) 
and setting young ladies to grounds and kitchen work in order to 
bring Abbot's nonacademic costs down to those of schools like North- 
field or several of the Quaker academies. Even at its simplest, gracious 
living cost money. 

Pensions were another perennial. Despite Flagg's reservations, a 
formal faculty retirement plan had been set up with the Teachers In- 
surance and Annuity Association in 1946, and was made mandatory 
"except in special cases" by 1949. 35 Abbot was still coping case by 
case with such older retirees as Mme. Craig, who refused to live in 
the Andover Nursing Home even though Miss Hearsey or one of the 


teachers visited her there every week; she had to be gently moved to 
Salem by Flagg and her other Abbot friends. 36 Alumnae of both the 
Hearsey and Crane years remember with pity a few weary or ill 
teachers who should perhaps have retired long before, and might have 
done so had pensions been really adequate. The students finally told 
Miss Hearsey about one old woman who would drop off to sleep dur- 
ing class; she was tactfully let go within the week. 37 There was no 
pension plan at all for staff, though Miss Hearsey urged that the 
Trustees adopt one. 38 The Trustees would continue through the 
1970's to assess each retiring teacher's independent income and pay her 
yearly supplement to TIA A and Social Security accordingly. 39 Though 
these were practices guaranteed to appall any unionized public school 
teacher, they were so deep in the tradition of the girl's boarding 
school that no one could dislodge them. True, the same tradition pro- 
vided some compensations: long-time staff retainers had their yearly 
Christmas presents from the faculty; the most respected teachers could 
take their turn with the $500 a year the Trustees set aside for summer 
study, or even win an occasional leave of absence with part or full 
salary; but none of these benefits quite made up for the financial dis- 
parity between working for Abbot Academy and selling similar skills 
to business, industry, or public schools. 

Perhaps the Trustees could not be blamed, for Abbot had little or 
no financial leeway. Flagg's last detailed financial review before he 
handed most of the books to the Assistant Treasurer asked the rhe- 
torical question: "What causes the operating deficit?" ($7500 in 1947, 
$10,000 in 1948). To the Treasurer the answer was obvious: Even 
though pensions seemed entirely inadequate to some, the total spent 
for this fixed cost had jumped from $632 in 1939 to over $14,000 in 
1947. The jump was the more striking in that operating expenses had 
risen just 10 percent faster than total income. 40 Thus Flagg was not 
being merely petulant or old-fashioned: he resisted standardized pen- 
sions and a more generous, more systematic salary scaje largely be- 
cause he felt Abbot could not afford them. 

Given this hallowed nonsystem, it is perhaps most surprising that 
Abbot continued to evoke the loyalty it did from teachers and staff. 
McKeen Custodian David Robb brought his wife to every concert and 
play that took place in the assembly hall which he himself kept so 
scrupulously clean, and left Abbot $10,000 at his death in 1973. Mr. 
and Mrs. Jes Bonde, whom Miss Hearsey brought in to direct the 
kitchen and the household staff, were so warm-hearted and capable 
that bakers, dishwashers, and maids were willing to overlook the level 
of their pay and the entire absence of Abbot pensions to stay for 


years at the school. The length of teachers' tenure through i960 also 
seems remarkable. For many adults, Abbot was still home. 

Finally, the Trustees sought to regain the momentum of the fund 
drive that had been interrupted by the War. None seemed willing to 
act as fast as Marguerite Hearsey wished. Much as Miss McKeen had 
done, she reminded them repeatedly of the need for a new campaign, 
and their response was similar to that of the nineteenth-century Trust- 
ees. Too early for the next anniversary, they said. A bad time for a 
capital campaign, they said. 41 True, the Investment Committee was a 
little cell of persuasion, taking up Flagg's gentle cudgel for an ex- 
panded endowment, and an alumnae-parent fund waxed more success- 
ful every year, but these were small things, for endowment interest 
and donations combined amounted to less than $30,000 a year. One of 
Abbot's latter-day development officers suspects that the male ma- 
jority on the Board simply did not take seriously this female institu- 
tion's need for larger science laboratories and better athletic facilities. 
From 1945 on, the Trustees went through convincing motions, ap- 
pointing and retiring committees on School Needs and Development, 
allowing Miss Hearsey to mount her own campaign among 175 Abbot 
fathers in 195 1 after she and Flagg had become convinced from par- 
ents' financial references that the income of the average father had 
substantially increased since the War. She wanted money for higher 
salaries, a much larger scholarship fund, a gymnasium, and, simply, 
for a hedge against the small but persistent yearly deficit. 42 She didn't 
get much from the fathers, and this convinced her that it was past 
time to begin the major 125th Anniversary campaign. In the very 
month that President Conant opened his guns on the United States' 
dual school system, Miss Hearsey told the Trustees that the time had 
come. She had been enormously encouraged by the new Alumnae 
Council's interest in Abbot and its problems, and she was sure the 
alumnae as a whole were "ready to work for some challenging cause." 43 

At last the Board agreed. Their latest Development Committee had 
decided that a gymnasium should head the list of building needs: 
this would free Davis Hall for its many competing uses, as well as for 
the movies and other "secular programs" now accommodated in the 
Chapel— most inappropriately, Miss Hearsey felt. The Physical Educa- 
tion program was a full one: four or five hours each week of hockey, 
basketball, and tennis in the fall; skiing, skating, and gymnastics in 
winter; softball, track, archery, lacrosse, tennis, and horseback riding 
in the spring; and modern or folk dancing throughout the year— all led 
now by two athletics teachers and their faculty amateur assistants 
rather than by Mary Carpenter and a few enthusiastic Seniors; but it 


burst at the seams when the weather was poor, especially on those 
dank February days when nearly every student in the school was 
either hauled out protesting to ski or confined to Davis Hall. In every 
age since 1852, Abbot had striven to create a self-sufficiency appropri- 
ate to the times; now a gymnasium was a patent necessity. 

The Trustees went to work to find large donors, while Helen Allen 
Henry, '32, and Mary Howard Nutting, '40, took chief responsibility 
for fund-raising among the alumnae. The campaigners received a 
heartening boost in the form of a $50,000 gift from the Nathaniel and 
Elizabeth Stevens Foundation; then fate gave them a rationale to create 
a special memorial to Board Chairman George Ezra Abbot after his 
untimely death in 1953. The campaign was entirely Abbot's work: no 
outside fund-raisers were called in to help— or to interfere with— this 
grand project of the school's extended family. Alumnae who had 
loved Abbot sports rallied to lend a hand. One feels that many of the 
married volunteers warmly welcomed work that was uniquely theirs 
as women, as individuals with selves rooted in a past their husbands 
and children, however beloved, had not shared. Surely among 3,400 
alumnae a large share of the remaining $250,000 needed to build and 
maintain the gymnasium could be found. 

Miss Hearsey used the school's grand 125th Anniversary dinner to 
appeal for funds in spring of 1954. The Senior Class of 1953 gave its 
class gift to the fund, and two years of birthday Bazaars earned $2000 
more. John Mason Kemper, Phillips' postwar Headmaster, brought 
with his own contribution a ringing endorsement of the school his 
mother had enjoyed in Miss Means's day. Other long memories were 
awakened by the chosen site on the orchard hill, for that very land 
had been Andover Theological Seminary's last gift to Abbot before its 
move to Cambridge in 1908. Helen Henry and Marguerite Hearsey 
visited other schools to assess their athletic facilities and sat with 
architect-Trustee Radford Abbot again and again for planning sessions. 

By the spring of 1955 $200,000 was in hand. 44 Parents had donated 
about $50,000, friends and Trustees $125,000; $32,000 had been given 
by over a thousand alumnae, most of it in small donations, and hun- 
dreds of alumnae came to the celebration of the building's completion 
in February 1956. It was nothing like the Dear Old Girls' accomplish- 
ment for the Centennial, but then, no one had expected so much, for 
they knew that the alumnae as a group had less to give than in 1929. 
Throughout the twentieth century an ever larger proportion of Abbot 
graduates had married and given up their jobs or their plans for 
them; 45 in vain did Flagg remind women who had little income of 
their own that new tax laws would benefit those who donated up to 


3 percent of it to private schools and colleges. 46 Still, the gymnasium 
campaign showed clearly that Abbot could in two years' time draw 
major resources from a constituency that believed in private institu- 
tions, whatever the critics might think. The simple, handsome two- 
story building with its 90 X 45 foot main gymnasium was cause both 
for pride and for an immediate expansion of the sports program. It 
would prove of central importance to the community of girls and 
women over Abbot's last two decades. 

Thus Mary Crane received from Miss Hearsey and all of Abbot's 
friends a campus that provided ample space for learning, and room for 
more students as well. The pressure of increased applications seemed 
irresistible: by 1959 there were 231 Abbot students, including forty- 
two day students from a community still keenly interested in educa- 
tion. With a sigh from the older teachers, the school moved to Davis 
Hall for daily Chapel in 1964, but the crowd meant more tuition in- 
come and a richer program, so it was acceptable. Students took more 
courses in all subjects except in art history and music, and they were 
demonstrably brighter. Abbot scores on College Entrance Exams and 
IQ tests show that early sixties girls were the most able as a group that 
Abbot had enrolled since testing began: while the Seniors' median IQ 
in 1 95 1 had been about the same as the median for all independent 
schools (118), the median in 1961 (134) was much higher. 47 More girls 
took mathematics (77 percent), and nearly twice as many as in 195 1 
took science (40 percent). Though neither Mrs. Crane nor the Trustees 
opened new fund drives, the alumnae-parent annual giving effort drew 
in more each year, until it stood in 1962 at $34,700, with over 40 per- 
cent of the alumnae contributing; endowment the same year was 
$1,542,000. With the recession of the late fifties out of the way, all 
private schools grew fat. As if to confirm Abbot's treasured inde- 
pendence and its defiance of James Conant's assumptions, the Trustees 
voted in 1961 a resolution stating their opposition to any federal aid to 
nonpublic schools, and passed it on to the National Council for Inde- 
pendent Schools. If Abbot salaries were never high enough, if pensions 
were inadequate and teaching loads were heavy (twenty hours a week, 
on the average, with three preparations), the school as a whole, never- 
theless, appeared to be a healthy old lady, pleasingly plump. 


No matter how prosperous Abbot seemed, no matter how hard the 
Trustees and Mrs. Crane worked, the fifties and early sixties presented 


the school with difficulties it had not known before. For generations 
Abbot had projected a clear design for women's lives. Artist- writers 
like Phebe McKeen and Emily Means, scholars like Laura Watson and 
Marguerite Hearsey, powerful personalities like Philena McKeen and 
Bertha Bailey, female teachers of many disciplines and talents— all had 
represented in their very persons a life of responsible, fruitful inde- 
pendence. None denied the richness of marriage and family life; in- 
deed most warmly endorsed it, 48 and many had cared gladly for par- 
ents, sisters, and other dependent relatives or close woman friends 
whenever they were needed. 49 The great majority of alumnae now 
married, but married or single, almost all of Abbot's graduates before 
1950 had seen their school as a confirmation of women's need and 
right to lives of their own. Yet suddenly, postwar America seemed to 
have a different message for growing girls: by far the most worthy 
role for a woman is that of wife and mother, seed-bed and support of 
others' lives. No one can know why this message appeared so con- 
vincing at the time. Had it something to do with the mass marketing 
of teen magazines like Seventeen— which Abbot girls devoured— and 
their pink-fluff visions of romance in a split-level home? Did family 
life seem a safe Utopia to individuals scattered by the War? Did it pro- 
vide a sanctuary from fearsome international problems that many 
found overwhelmingly complicated and depressing? Whatever the 
cause, the marriage asd birth rate ballooned to the point where the 
single woman seemed vaguely incompetent if not perverted to many 
Americans, the childless woman fatally unfulfilled. Sociologist Betty 
Friedan blames advertisers among others for creating the "feminine 
mystique" which glorified mothers and housewives and their sparkling 
homes stocked with products A-Z; but surely the sincere wish to bring 
up children conscientiously and well was part of it too. That very 
wish was creating an unprecedented demand for an Abbot education 
which peaked at a 4: i applicant-acceptance ratio in i960. 

Americans had been obsessed with the "momism" issue ever since a 
gaggle of self-important psychiatrists had told the world that most of 
the 2,400,000 "psychoneurotics" rejected by Army recruiters or dis- 
charged to civilian life during World War II were "the victims of 
clinging and domineering mothers," 50 a delicious exaggeration that was 
only heightened when other psychiatrists found the same cause for the 
Korean War prisoners' vulnerability to brainwashing. Supposedly, 
daughters suffered as much as sons: countless urban girls "will be 
emotionally and morally ruined if some way cannot be found to sepa- 
rate them from their mothers," wrote one enthusiast. 51 Hidden in this 
foolishness was the truth that a society rushing back to peacetime rou- 

336 THE MORE THINGS CHANGE, 1945-1963 

tines had indeed pushed women out of their defense jobs and into the 
home, while learned psychoanalysts loaded them with a sense of awe- 
some responsibility for their children's personalities. The women most 
aware of this responsibility tended to be the college graduates who 
had the highest aspirations for careers outside the kitchen, and Abbot 
girls grown to adolescence under the care of such mothers could not 
but be perplexed about their own futures. 

Families newly interested in private schools seemed to care not at all 
about one of Abbot's original functions: to give young women a res- 
pite between girlhood and domesticity. A good secondary and college 
education was no longer proof against hasty marriage— often quite the 
contrary. To Patricia Graham the obsession with marriage in colleges 
of the fifties and early sixties was largely a demographic matter, the 
result of the vast increase in the number of young women aspiring 
toward, or attending, college. The less exclusive the group was, says 
Graham, the more it was trapped in majority mores— and since colonial 
times, America had basically believed that woman's "great vocation is 
motherhood." 52 By the late fifties the proportion of women doctoral 
candidates was lower than it had been for fifty years, and the most 
common age for a girl to marry was eighteen. Among the Seniors at 
Smith in 1959, "no one had any real plans," Friedan found. "I don't 
want to be interested in a career I'll have to give up," a college Junior 
told her. 53 Similarly, the 135 Abbot Seniors of 196 1 and 62 who wrote 
autobiographies for English class or college counseling responded to 
teachers' questions about their own futures outside of marriage with 
only the vaguest thoughts. It is not surprising. Only 18 percent men- 
tioned their mothers' work at all, and of the mothers who did work, 
just four had paid jobs. Asked what they remember of talk about the 
future, most Abbot alumnae of this time have echoed a 1955 gradu- 
ate's recollections: "I don't remember that anybody had great career 
plans. I think it was mostly agonizing 'will I ever get married?' I ago- 
nized as much as everybody else ... if you weren't engaged by age 
nineteen or twenty you'd had it." 54 One does not have to assume that 
these Abbot Seniors of the fifties and early sixties were "terrified of 
becoming like their mothers" and thus "afraid to grow up"— Friedan's 
too facile explanation for the general sense of purposelessness among 
young women; into the 1961-62 Seniors' memoirs of family life— for 
the most part close and happy— one cannot read such subconscious 
fears. 55 One can wonder whether a growing minority's obsession with 
"the college of their choice," as Mary Crane described a worrying 
early-sixties phenomenon, may be related to the pressures that parents 


put on their daughters to prove to the world by their top grades, their 
success with boys, and their entrance into prestige colleges how won- 
derfully brought up they were. 56 On the whole, however, boarding 
school worked against child-smothering "Momism." The independence 
that parents granted in sending their daughters to Abbot (an indepen- 
dence cherished by most of the daughters) suggests a healthy respect 
for their children's need to live lives of their own, while Abbot's con- 
scious building of its students' self-respect very often carried forward 
parents' deepest hopes for their children. 

Nevertheless, inside Abbot the "feminine mystique" had subtle ef- 
fects. Though many openly scorned its more mindless implications, its 
pervasive spirit tended to undermine ancient assurances and to cloud 
visions that had once been sharp and useful. The school's difficulty 
recruiting committed teachers was one symptom; once teachers ar- 
rived, students' attitudes toward them became a central factor in the 
equation. The quality and character of teachers may have been as high 
as ever— the point is hard to judge— but where a community of un- 
married women seemed "perfectly natural" and on the whole admir- 
able to Elizabeth Marshall in 1949, later students perceived many of 
the single teachers as lonely and frustrated. As though to exempt her- 
self from these stereotypes, one widow talked constantly to her stu- 
dents about her late husband (a businessman whom she called "Mr. 
Wallstreet"), her more recent lover, and the fact that she would in no 
wise be teaching if she had any alternative, but her husband's suicide 
after the Crash of 1929 had sealed her fate. This was a bit fantastic. 
More persuasive, especially as housemothers entered the scene, was the 
number of younger teachers who appeared to their students to be 
marking time until marriage, and the number of never-married women 
who seemed "somehow ashamed of themselves," as a disenchanted 
1964 graduate put it. Obviously, many Abbot adults felt no such 
thing, but any who did had chosen a discouraging setting for their 
careers, for they were surrounded by fresh, nubile teenagers with all 
of life and sex before them. "They were jealous of us," the 1964 gradu- 
ate insists. "To all of us a teacher was somebody who couldn't get a 
husband," says one ten years older. All these views must be taken as 
they evolved in individual adolescent minds, for inevitably, each girl's 
Abbot was a mirror of her own problems, hopes, and fears. Inevitably, 
too, they became part of her particular Abbot education. 

A handful of women appeared to their students and to some of the 
younger teachers to be substituting complex in-school relationships for 
tangled family ones. " was the most seductive and manipulative 


person I've ever known," a fifties alumna reports; "she was constantly 
using power plays to get students' affections, picking up kids and 
dropping them when they displeased her." And "she was only one of 
several" adds '64. These students and young teachers felt much less 
antipathy toward "Mrs. Wallstreet," the loquacious, openly domineer- 
ing Latin teacher who frankly made enemies among her colleagues by 
her refusal to give up smoking or inch-long red fingernails. Alumnae of 
the sixties actively enjoyed a colorful, capable pair whom to a woman 
they suspect of having been lesbians. "At least they felt good about 
themselves," says alienated '64. Abbot had moved a long way from the 
all-female community which for a full century had confidently offered 
to single women both a respectable role and a life-long home. 

The school itself seemed actually to encourage the idea that one had 
either a job or a baby. When one young teacher got pregnant, Abbot 
hired someone to replace her without even asking whether she hoped 
to return. She did not discover what had happened until she called the 
school in August to order some books for her English class. To be sure, 
Mrs. Crane had children in plenty, but "she was a noble widow— she 
had to work, so it was all right," says this teacher now. Mrs. Crane 
judges that she brought John Iverson and his wife to Abbot before 
most teachers were prepared to accept a man and wife with small 
children, for Abbot's first "house parents" did not feel welcome. Did 
some of the old hands snub them because they feared to lose the ex- 
clusive claim that single women had for so long held on teaching jobs 
at Abbot? If so, their fears soon came true as another married teacher 
or two arrived each year. It was not until the sixties that most of the 
faculty (like all of the students) were ready to appreciate a new crop 
of part-time married teachers with children, and the teacher who had 
left to have her first baby happily returned, rejoining the English de- 
partment in 1969 when the youngest of her four children was two 
years old. Her eventual return to Abbot was partly inspired by Bar- 
bara Sisson, herself a mother of three young children who committed 
herself heart and soul throughout the 1960's to imaginative leadership 
of Abbot's English department by day and to her own family by 
evening and weekend. "She was a really important role model for me," 
says the mother of four, echoing the feelings of many alumnae. Though 
formal faculty meetings were consumed with petty argument over 
stockings downtown and dates up the Hill, 57 Barbara Sisson and num- 
bers of other new teachers both married and single spent much time in 
these first years of the sixties puzzling out together the problem of 
how to bring Abbot into step with the new decade. 


Some teachers and more students had thought that the trouble lay in 
all those restrictive rules. Well then, thought the faculty, let them visit 
each other's rooms and have stereos, and whistle or drink cokes in the 
hallways. Let them have more legal occasions to meet boys, and they 
won't be so naughty. But as the rules eased a bit, the girls found 
ways to be still naughtier. The controls on boy-girl friendships loomed 
larger as Phillips contacts multiplied and required more and more sur- 
veillance. It was one of the ironies of these years when girls were 
thinking ever more of marriage that Abbot Academy continued to be 
"terrified of sex," as Elizabeth Thomas expresses it, speaking for 
many. Actually, news from the colleges suggested that there really 
was something to worry about now. The accuracy of the Kinsey Re- 
port was being demonstrated by student pregnancy and abortion rates 
and statistics both sensational and reliable on premarital intercourse. 58 
At a Columbia University Teachers' Conference a psychiatrist told 
thirty-four secondary educators that anything in sex "that promotes 
successful interpersonal relations is moral." 59 Thus the requests of Ab- 
bot girls and Phillips boys for closer contacts up and down the Hill 
were made to anxious ears. The response of Abbot's faculty was more 
of the same: more chaperoned dances, more calling and dating, more 
"cattle-market mixers" (as a once boy-shy alumna terms these com- 
pulsory parties). After i960 Mrs. Crane did allow older students to 
attend regular coeducational drama and singing groups with both 
Phillips and Brooks School boys, Brooks being favored (as always) 
because of its safe distance from Abbot, a whole township away. 
These activities provided really welcome chances to get to know boys 
outside of the usual, loaded "dating" context, but few younger stu- 
dents were allowed to participate, and the new contacts only whetted 
older students' appetites for more. Abbot would go no further. No 
one suggested putting Abbot and Phillips on the same weekly sched- 
ule so that joint activities could be easily arranged. There was no 
serious, frank attempt at sex education beyond a regular biology 
unit which some took and some did not; a visiting lecturer now and 
then; 61 and occasional forays made by the bold: Ann Werner, had 
her 1964 Seniors read and write a critical essay on that contemporary 
shocker, Sex and the College Girl, and Mrs. DeGavre brought Dido 
and Aeneas to life for her Latin students with explicit descriptions of 
sexual love and reflections on the responsibilities of a mature relation- 
ship. 62 A young married teacher shared the confusions of her first 
pregnancy and the joy of her first baby with her history students. 63 
These were exceptions, however. On the whole the Abbot faculty re- 



fused to deal with the sex issue. As they did in response to so many 
out-of-class problems, they fell back on inherited traditions too long 

It is true that hundreds and hundreds of students went through Ab- 
bot hungry for its opportunities and taking rich advantage of them 
during these strangely troubled years. They sought and found teach- 
ers, friends, and a Principal who met their deepest needs. But there 
seemed to be a growing minority who found Abbot's dissonance with 
the world outside more stifling than stimulating, or who constantly 
created cacophony themselves; and if the brass are out of tune, the 
loveliness of the string section cannot be heard. The Trustees listened 
to the orchestra with an ear for portents of Abbot's future, an ear 
newly sensitive to the possibilities of change now that the conformist 
fifties were giving way to the more open, restless sixties. They heard 
only the brass, in spite of the conductor's efforts to bring the ensemble 
into balance. It was time, they decided, to act. 


The Final Decade, 1963-1973 

No school is an island: before i960, every chapter of Abbot's story 
had been bound in some degree to the realities and dreams of the 
larger society. Yet insofar as any school could do, the old Abbot had 
made itself a place apart, especially after the McKeen sisters came, and 
it did its best to remain so through the early 1960's. During the final 
decade, the outside world beat upon Abbot's doors with such insis- 
tence that they must either be opened up or broken down. The Trust- 
ees opened them and the world rushed in like a clumsy repairman, 
knocking over tables and trampling valuable heirlooms, but also bring- 
ing fresh air into musty places, and piling on the floor a heap of lumber 
and tools with which to build anew. 

This was the way of the sixties. They began conventionally enough: 
a presidential election followed by ringing rhetoric, promises of equal 
rights at home and a rational foreign policy abroad. But America had 
heard these before. What was new was the far-off rumble of cracking 
conformity: the California poets, tousle-haired and vulgar, putting 
words to their longing for selfhood outside the System; 1 radical 
educator-writers like Paul Goodman who had finally found a public 
willing to consider that young Americans were "Growing up Absurd"; 
above all, black leaders and their people, who had decided they could 
count on no one but themselves, and had taken the American dream 
into the streets, the lunch counters, and the schools, insisting that 
promises would no longer do. New also was the power of the re- 
action already gathering against all that seemed faddish, treasonous, 
and dangerous at the extremes of this new activism. 

At Abbot, at first, these foreshocks were barely felt. A Senior named 
Cathlyn Wilkerson wrote an editorial for the March 1962 issue of 
Cynosure, the new school newspaper, describing a chain of East Coast 
peace marches against nuclear testing and the arms race, a demonstra- 
tion in which eight Abbot students had taken part. Mary Crane had 
let them go, but Abbot had been too comfortable to show more than 
passing curiosity about the burning ideas they brought back with 
them. Cathy wrote, "The eight of us who participated are also guilty 
of inaction, of passively letting these ideas smoulder within us." A 

344 THE FINAL DECADE, I963-I973 

gentle sensitive girl, she could plead for her cause and not be reviled. 
Mrs. Crane and a few young teachers listened with interest, but most 
of Abbot was busy preparing for the Winter prom. 

Eight years later the girl had joined the Weathermen; her cause was 
a desperate revolution against a state so corrupted— she felt— by the 
misuse of force in Vietnam and the ghetto that only violence could 
right it; and the ideas had become home-made bombs stored in a 
Manhattan brownstone. Deep one night before it could ever be used 
for the cause, the arsenal exploded. Cathy Wilkerson left the ruins 
and the bodies of three friends and went into hiding from a world that 
would not forgive. Thus were individual lives wrenched out of shape 
by the pain and the apocalyptic dreams of the sixties, if they were not 
lost altogether on the paddy fields, or in a Wisconsin physics labora- 
tory blown up by the Weathermen, or in the cellars of brownstones. 
Though Cathy Wilkerson has apparently held to her original ideals as 
she continues in hiding, the force of those years swept away all sem- 
blance of normal after-Abbot life for this young woman. 

It was force enough to change a school, many schools. The char- 
acter of change depended on how a given institution responded to the 
shocks dealt out by events that defied comprehension. Fortunately 
there was more to the sixties than assassination and urban riot, more 
than napalm and Nixon: there was also new music, cleansing political 
satire, black pride, red pride, participatory democracy in suburbs, 
schools, environmental protection groups, and garbagemen's unions. 
There was exhilaration and release. There was a revival of the women's 
liberation movement as radical as any of its nineteenth-century in- 
carnations, as sweeping and influential as the final Woman Suffrage 
campaign before 1920. Finally, there was a romantic revolution in edu- 
cation which drew together the strands of individualism, of Freudian 
radicalism and reformist enthusiasm, finding expression in thousands of 
new private schools. Most of these clung to the lunatic fringes only 
briefly before dropping into bankruptcy or oblivion, but others sur- 
vived. The best of them inspired older schools to think anew about 
their own goals and methods, whether in fear for their futures or 
in hope. 

At Abbot Academy, then, change was inevitable. Yet it would be 
much more than a helpless giving away to external pressures: an ac- 
tivist Board of Trustees proved eager and able to help lead the school 
throughout its final decade, meeting the turmoil outside with initiatives 
of its own. In general, Abbot's response to the sixties and early seven- 
ties was to stand on the most durable of its ancient virtues— its small 
size, its care for individuals and attentiveness to all aspects of their 

THE FINAL DECADE, I963-I973 345 

lives, its ideals of academic and artistic excellence— and like a carpenter 
on a very firm stepladder, to reconstruct both its internal program and 
its entire relationship to Phillips Academy. As in all revolutions, good 
people suffered and much was lost, including, at last, the school's cor- 
porate identity. The main business of schools is students, however. 
While the original Abbot Academy was working itself out of a job, 
more girls attended Abbot than in any decade in its history, and many 
if not most of them thrived on the school's continual plan-making, its 
conscious weighing of alternatives, its struggle to sort out the tradi- 
tional, the fashionable and the truly innovative, all of which mirrored 
those private, dialectical processes by which an adolescent grows to- 
ward independence. The last chapters of Abbot's history are concerned 
as much with beginnings as with endings. 

The Trustees Decide 

With great difficulty I begin to ivrite about myself, 

because I am changing all the time. 
Autobiographical essay by an Abbot Senior, 1961 

As Abbot Academy opened the 1962-63 school year, an outsider 
would have wondered what there was to worry about. According to 
the numbers and graphs, the school was doing well. The applicant- 
acceptance ratio had stabilized at about three to one; Abbot's "average 
student" ranked above the median in independent school testing pro- 
grams. 1 There were some brilliant scholars and some not so brilliant, 
but the school's age-old commitment to fostering a variety of talents 
made it hospitable to both groups. Just five years earlier, an evaluation 
committee of the New England Association of Schools and Colleges 
had praised Abbot as "exceptionally well administered," made a few 
suggestions for Advanced Placement courses, and recommended re- 
accreditation. 2 Income had more than kept pace with rising expenses; 
endowments and investments had increased 65 percent in five years. 
For some students Abbot continued to be "exactly what I needed: 
protection from the world; an extremely simple place to grow up in 
at a very complicated time," a community drawn together by morning 
Chapel ("a special, cherished occasion"), by Phillips-Abbot mixers 
("scary but fun") and, above all, by teachers who took time with girls 
who needed time. 3 

Yet those discontented voices would not be stilled. One alumna who 
loved the school says that nearly all her "most interesting friends 
chafed tremendously under the insular, limited character of the place." 4 
Years vary, and 1961-62 seems to have been a tough one. To some stu- 
dents and younger faculty, the school seemed stagnant: nothing hap- 
pened, no issues, no discussion. "We just went along as a good girls' 
school," two teachers recall. They remember Mary Crane wearying 
herself trying to nudge it forward, and an active Senior class simply 
taking over leadership as she grew discouraged. 5 It was the year a 
Phillips faculty wife and friend remembers her asking, "I'm running, 
running all the time; why is it that it's so hard to get anywhere?" 6 


College admissions statistics were heartening, and the variety of col- 
leges chosen was on the increase (interestingly, only a third of '62 
Seniors went on to the traditional women's colleges, compared with 
75 percent in 1935), but the anxious push toward college made Abbot 
"a place to get through" for numbers of girls and took some of the 
shine and simple fun out of daily, present school life. 7 

Beginning in i960, a new school newspaper gave voice to the dis- 
heartened as well as to the vibrant students who had long smiled on 
the pages of the Alumnae Bulletin. The winter of 1961 was "confusing 
and tense," at least for the Cynosure editor who wrote about it; 8 at- 
tendance at games had fallen and athletes were discouraged; too often 
the whispering and fooling in Chapel by the many destroyed devo- 
tions for the few. Of course students wrote sparkling accounts of 
dances and plays too, and made genuine attempts to air issues that had 
long gone unconsidered: the dearth of science courses for younger 
students (twice as many students now took science as in 1951—40 per- 
cent of the school— and more were asking for it); forced attendance 
at lectures and concerts; the rigid, picayune rules (how can we boast 
of an honor system centered on chewing gum and nylon stockings? 
asked one reporter); 9 and grades (why were Abbot's so low when 
colleges wanted high ones?). One parent insists that "those Latin 
teachers actually enjoyed flunking people." 10 First letter writers, then 
editors asked why Phillips and Abbot could not combine courses in 
Physics and German. 11 Cynosure described students groping for some 
comprehensible relationship between their little school world and 
events outside. A speaker from the Friends Service Committee "was 
barraged with questions concerning work camps, integration and other 
aspects of social work." 12 The captive Saturday night audience was 
startled awake by a Dr. Albert Burke, who quoted Mao Tse-Tung, 
and described American education as out of touch with modern reali- 
ty, utterly "irrelevant" to young people's lives. 13 The editors kept all 
Abbot apprised of the efforts Principal and faculty were making to 
bring Russian and Far Eastern studies into the curriculum, and to re- 
vive the emphasis of the Hearsey years on internationalism. 

All this was healthy. None of it could dispel the sense of several 
Trustees that Abbot was becoming dated— inching forward while the 
world leapt ahead. Why had Abbot's applications stagnated following 
the sharp rise in 1957, while applications to most competing girls' schools 
had gained steadily? Sargent's Handbook of Private Schools assured 
the school-shopper that Abbot had "maintained for more than a cen- 
tury the even tenor of its traditions, undiverted by passing fashions," 14 
but was this raison d'etre in the sixties? Principal and Trustees had 

348 THE FINAL DECADE, I963-I973 

been discussing a new major fund-raising campaign— but Philip Allen, 
Helen Henry, and others were asking themselves how they could per- 
suade donors to provide for the future of an institution whose present 
was almost unexamined. The Trustees' unanimous agreement on the 
need for new funds gave this restless minority the opening they were 
looking for. They asked for and got a commitment from the Board 
for a long range plan which would bring Abbot out of limbo. 15 

Philip Allen was the Trustee who least cared for limbo, and now 
Allen was emerging as the force behind reform. "It was time to take 
this nineteenth century school with its crinoline and old lace, and pump 
it up into the twentieth century," Allen has said. Highly experienced 
in politics of all kinds, from Andover Town Hall where he served as 
Chairman of the Board of Selectmen, to Washington, D.C., Allen was 
accustomed to aiming high and getting there; if he didn't make it the 
first time, he had the confidence to try again. But here was no self- 
seeking manipulator: Allen is the perfect politican, because he really 
loves people. He seeks to understand and respond to their interests and 
needs, even while he refines and pursues his own goals. Long ago in 
his life he had taught English for two years at the progressive, coedu- 
cational Cambridge School. It was a wonderful experience which he 
kept tucked away in his mind. As he went on to teach at Phillips for 
two more years and to send his daughters briefly to Abbot, he won- 
dered why these two admirable Andover schools could not shed their 
hauteur and open themselves to fresh ideas as Cambridge had done 
with such zest in the 1930's. In his wildest dreams he asked why they 
couldn't simply combine into one coeducational school? No one who 
knew Allen laughed. His wildest dreams had a way of coming true. 

A special Trustees' meeting in April of 1963 took large first steps; 
Robert Hunneman, Board Chairman, proposed two Trustee "Visiting 
Committees," one to meet with the Principal and department heads to 
consider curriculum and student affairs, the other to examine Abbot's 
scholarship and salary policy. 16 At the June meeting the Trustees 
voted to engage a firm of New York educational consultants, Cresap, 
McCormick and Paget, to conduct a complete review of the organiza- 
tion and administration of the Academy, and to make suggestions for 


Cresap and Company went to work with a will, interviewing all Trust- 
ees and most of the faculty and staff at length, searching books, asking 
and getting administrative analyses of costs and tasks. By January 1964 


its confidential report was ready for the Trustees, all ioo pages of it. 
It began conservatively enough with a description of Abbot's sound 
financial position and a recommendation for clearer accounting prac- 
tices; but the second section, Organization for Top Management, must 
have awakened the most somnolent Trustee reader, for it indicated a 
substantial discrepancy between Abbot's present structure and its need 
for clear, tight overall administration, as well as for a system to ensure 
future planning in tune with mid-twentieth century business and edu- 
cational practices. 

Much of the Report boils down to simple home truths for Trustees: 
decide policy and long-range goals, delegate power to the Principal to 
implement them, and evaluate the Principal's success in achieving them. 
But the implications were more specific, potentially more upsetting— 
and more helpful to those who wanted real change. If Abbot was to 
commit itself to college preparation, for example, its academic pro- 
grams and college advising would have to be based on a thorough 
knowledge of colleges and their requirements, (considerably more 
thorough, is the suggestion, than that obtaining). The implication: 
time for the Board to make sure it happened. The Trustees must finally 
settle the question of Abbot's optimum size, and plan accordingly. If 
they were not happy with Abbot's salary scale, they should say so and 
do something about it. The Board itself required overhauling. Most 
revolutionary, given Burton Flagg's more than half a century as work- 
ing Treasurer, Trustee terms should be limited to six years, to be re- 
newed only twice. (After a year's time, an ex-Trustee could be 
elected again.) No Trustee should serve after age seventy-five. The 
Treasurer and Assistant Treasurer should "cease to be regarded as 
members of the administration"; they should provide counsel and 
guidance, but leave day-to-day financial administration to a staff 
headed by a full time business manager well versed in modern budget- 
ing and cost-accounting procedures. 17 

In anticipation of this published recommendation, Robert Hunne- 
man had already gone with Phil Allen to visit Mr. Flagg and tell him, 
gently, that he must retire. "It was one of the hardest things I've ever 
had to do," says Allen now; it could not but be a terrible blow to the 
ninety-year-old Flagg, who had apparently assumed that he and Abbot 
would go on together, while he became ever weaker and more deaf, 
until he died. 18 The various trustee-treasurers' endurance had been 
Abbot's strength for 130 years, but by the early sixties, no individual's 
life-time commitment could itself perpetuate an institution resilient 
enough to meet the challenges facing independent schools. New blood 
must be guaranteed by new by-laws. 


THE FINAL DECADE, 1963-1973 




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352 THE FIN AL DECADE, I963-I973 

The Cresap Report proposed other conduits for fresh air: non- 
trustees to serve on Board committees, and a procedure for setting 
up ad hoc Trustee committees (these could and eventually would in- 
clude teachers and students) which would dissolve once their work 
was done. Members of the Trustees' Educational Policies and Student 
Affairs Committee must oversee admissions policies, curriculum, schol- 
arships, teaching loads and class size, library standards, "quality and 
methods of instruction," and extracurricular affairs, with the view to 
revising policy and judging performance. 19 

Finally, Abbot's overall organization should be simplified, with the 
principal made responsible for all academic and financial administra- 
tion, while a Secretary of the Academy would lead long-range plan- 
ning efforts, organize Board staff work and record-keeping, and take 
on special assignments, reporting directly to the Board. 

Except for the new, clean arrangements of Board functions and the 
professionalization of business management, this plan projected little 
change in the principal's formal authority. Abbot had never been a 
democracy: traditionally the principal consulted teachers as much as 
she wished, and then declared her decision. As the consultants saw it, 
Mary Crane's problem was to engage the faculty more effectively in 
school affairs. Most full faculty meetings were "incredibly boring," 
teachers of 1962 and 1963 remember, because there was little to decide 
beyond chaperonage procedures or the question of how one was to 
tell from a distance— now that seamless stockings were in— whether 
girls were wearing stockings or not. The resolution of many dilemmas 
over rules was often determined by who got to Mary Crane first out- 
side of faculty meetings, and spoke most insistently— even to the point 
of getting her to change her mind on a decision already announced, 20 
while most academic and admissions matters were decided in private 
by Miss Tucker as Director of Studies, the Principal, and, occasional- 
ly, individual department chairmen. (Mrs. Crane rarely consulted the 
chairmen before hiring teachers for their departments, a point which 
rankled when her decisions went awry.) The Principal's attempts to 
stimulate full faculty discussion of substantive matters, such as the 
need for a consulting psychiatrist, usually met stony ears, possibly be- 
cause the teacher-housemother group as a whole was not accustomed 
to difficult, many-sided dialogue. 21 It didn't help that some of the old 
pros thought the housemothers rank amateurs, nor that for a few young 
teachers, Abbot was only a way-station to marriage, and that more 
committed women had only scorn for their opinions or their com- 
plaints. Cresap and Company pondered the muddle of the day-to-day 
difficulties their investigations had uncovered and made a series of 


proposals to clarify faculty and staff responsibilities and to open up 
communication and reporting within the school. 

Their report suggested that the teachers' voice in school decisions be 
more systematically evoked through an elected faculty "senate," or 
cabinet. They proposed that the director of studies preside over all 
curriculum development, athletics, and scholarships as well as college 
advising and daily instruction, and that a new director of residence 
take responsibility for students' nonacademic life, leaving the principal 
free to oversee the whole. They wanted cost accounting for each 
course (cost per student, cost per class), an equitable rearrangement of 
teacher workloads, a merit salary scale, and more efficient use of the 
nonacademic staff, which now amounted to 101 full-time people, in- 
cluding an aging grounds crew, half of whom were over sixty-five 
(lacking pensions, one puts off retirement). 

Consultants' recommendations often go straight to the wastebasket, 
once Trustees' consciences have been appeased by the appearance of 
their report. The Cresap Report was important to Abbot Academy 
because nearly every one of its proposals was implemented during 
Abbot's final decade. As old-Abbot people accustomed to the more 
informal arrangements retired or were shifted to other tasks within 
the school, job descriptions were tightened up, contracts were written, 
and staff people who had done five or six different jobs concentrated 
on one or two. These rational schemes generated some irrationalities: 
Faculty contracts listed a series of specific tasks but always ended with 
that ominous phrase "and whatever further duties the school shall 
require of you." Evelyn Neumark, a versatile "secretary" who served 
for fifteen years as receptionist, as chief assistant to Alice Sweeney and 
then to Eleanor Tucker, as informal counselor for troubled students, 
as editor of the Parents' Newsletter, and as organizer of Parents Day 
and a steadily increasing Alumnae-Parent Annual Giving Fund, began 
feeling under-used the year after a Director of Development and 
Secretary of the Academy was finally hired in 1969 at two and a half 
times her salary, and so left. There would be expensive lags and over- 
laps: the savings Cresap and Company promised from streamlined de- 
ployment of staff could not materialize when able (male) administra- 
tors came so high, at least not until Abbot's enrollment expanded in 
the early seventies to justify their ministrations. Still, the Trustees kept 
invoking the Cresap Report's principles as they moved into leadership 
of Abbot. For Philip Allen, who became Board President in 1965 and 
immediately assumed a more active role than had any Trustee since 
Samuel C. Jackson in his early heyday, the Report provided outside 
confirmation of his own long-time worries about Abbot's viability in 

354 TH E FIN AL DECADE, I963-I973 

an age of change, as well as backing for his ideas about modern man- 
agement practices. The Trustees held two special Board meetings in 
the spring of 1964 to get the new systems under way; the three sub- 
committees immediately began functioning, and the Executive Com- 
mittee met every single month from 1964 to 1973 to carry out the 
responsibilities the Board had set for itself. 22 One by one over the 
next eight years, the Trustees' votes turned the Cresap proposals into 


Mary Crane happily tackled the new tasks established for her. Though 
her responsibilities being made more clear were made more awesome, 
the changes were designed to support her best efforts, and in many 
respects they did. The Trustees' new Administrative Policy Committee 
chaired by Frances Jordan, worked most closely with her. The first 
decision made by the Committee was its most crucial: it recommended 
that Eleanor Tucker become Vice-Principal in charge of the academic 
program, giving her authority to direct curricular affairs as well as to 
advise Mrs. Crane on the hiring of teachers and on all nonacademic 
matters. The experience Miss Tucker thus gained was shortly to prove 
invaluable to Abbot. This done, Committee and Principal turned to 
pensions and salaries, two areas to which Mary Crane could bring 
much wisdom, thanks to her NAIS and NAPSG Committee work on 
both subjects. Beginning September 1, 1964, Abbot's share of TIAA 
contributions was expanded from 50 percent to 75 percent, with each 
teacher contributing only 2.5 percent of her salary. The Committee 
backed Mrs. Crane's arguments for higher salaries and merit raises. 23 
Some salaries bordered on the ridiculous— $3,400 for a librarian ex- 
pected to teach library use and reference work, and $4,800 for one 
long-tenured department head. In five years, teachers' (and librarians') 
salaries would increase about 40 percent; by 1967, $5,000 was the low- 
est salary, $5,600 the median, and $8,000 the highest. 24 In the last years 
of Mary Crane's tenure, the Administrative Policies Committee actual- 
ly helped the Principal make decisions on individual salary awards. 
Trustees cannot get much more involved than this. 

Backed by the Committee, Mary Crane also initiated a large increase 
in scholarship aid, to come both from Abbot's own scholarship funds 
(which doubled to $30,000 by 1967) and from new federal and foun- 
dation scholarship programs for underprivileged students, most of them 
urban blacks. 25 A few years before, Mrs. Crane had brought two Greek 


students to Abbot on full scholarship, and had welcomed Muthoni 
Githungo, a Kenyan girl willing to leave her beloved village to pre- 
pare for medical or dental training under the J.F. Kennedy Scholar- 
ship program. Muthoni described in poetry the sorrows and hopes 
with which she bade farewell to her grandmother and came to America: 

Tear upon tear falls then, 
Constantly flowing; 
On her wrinkled face 
And she holds me tightly 
And says, "Muthoni dear 
Don't go to America, 
Stay here in Africa 
And take care of me." 

Thus she said, and I 

Told her, "Oh Cucu, 

Can't you understand? 

To America I must go; 

The land of freedom, 

Of cowboys and of education. 

There I will be educated 

And I will return as a great doctor." 

After I said that, 

She took my hand 

And kissed it. 

She then placed it near her breast 

And blessed me. 

Abbot students had raised nearly $2,000 to help match the govern- 
ment grant; thus Muthoni was able to spend two years at Abbot pre- 
paring for college, eventually to return to Kenya as an expert dentist. 26 
Anxious to increase Abbot's minority enrollment to the four girls a 
year the outside programs allowed, the Trustees entirely left behind 
their own resolutions and Flagg's scruples about federal involvement in 
private enterprise. All over the country, youngsters were seeking quali- 
ty education; it seemed an age since 1944 when Miss Hearsey and her 
faculty committee looked for "especially able girls who needed help" 
and were unable to find any. 27 Now the Trustees' new Planning and 
Development Committee put the acquisition of scholarship monies 
high on its list of long range needs, along with increased salaries, and 
took the first steps toward a major fund drive by again retaining Tam- 
blyn and Brown, fund-raising consultants. 

356 THE FINAL DECADE, 1963-I973 

Finally, Cresap and Company had described several of Abbot's older 
buildings as in "fair" to "poor" shape, and pointed out that only the 
newest were "excellent." It was not much of a distinction for Draper 
Hall to boast the oldest hot water heating system in New England. 28 
The consultants confirmed Philip Allen's long-held opinion that the 
whole plant was suffering from a maintenance policy too frugal to do 
the job; iMrs. Rogers' Buildings and Grounds Committee got right to 
work on this problem, and began assessing future building needs. 

The Cresap report— and the Trustees— had proposed that the Prin- 
cipal consult regularly with elected faculty on matters of school-wide 
importance. The resulting faculty "Cabinet" represented both young 
teachers and old, 29 and talked of much more than seamless stockings: 
student workload, improved counseling, a fairer class ranking system, 
the question of mixed-class dormitories, the low morale of resident 
faculty, and the need for better new faculty orientation. (Clothes did 
intrude when students complained that young faculty wore jeans 
while they could not.) Mary Crane had worried about such problems 
for years— "We have no plan for in-service training of teachers, al- 
though I cheerfully engage in-experienced ones," she had told the 
Trustees— 30 but with the Cabinet's help, she would do something about 
it. The Cabinet helped set the agenda for full faculty meetings, which 
were now less frequent but more serious. 31 Department heads met to- 
gether to make long-range academic plans, and arranged for teachers 
to present particularly worthy teaching innovations to the academic 
faculty as a whole. To keep track of day-to-day matters, the Direc- 
tors of Studies, Residence, and Admissions met with Mary Crane as a 
Faculty Council. All these mechanisms materially strengthened both 
the Principal's perceptions of faculty needs and opinion, and the teach- 
ers' sense of responsibility for Abbot Academy as a complex whole. 

The various consultative groups helped Mrs. Crane with one of the 
most difficult areas of school management: the split between the teach- 
ing faculty and the housemothers. Part of this was sheer snobbery by 
a few teachers, part was their age (the average housemother of the 
mid-sixties was 64 years old), but part was that a few housemothers 
were at Abbot earning low salaries because they were untrained for 
other work. 32 "A really good housemother was harder to find than a 
good teacher," remembers Mary Crane. 33 Students had no mercy on 
the weak: "They're just sentimental old bags," wrote a Sherman 
House correspondent. A housemother was all but helpless when her 
charges stuffed their beds with dummies and joined each other in a 
remote bedroom for a midnight beer party, or when the whole of 
Abbey House embellished a winter night by screaming out their 


windows from exactly 10:47 to 10:48 p.m. 34 Turnover was swift. 
" 'Mummsie' ruined parts of our year this year," wrote Sherman 
House in the early sixties, "but Mummsie is leaving, thanks to the 
whole dorm." A '62 graduate whose parents worked abroad looked 
through four years for attention and guidance from Abbot's house- 
mothers, and could not find it. "The gap was enormous," she says 
now. Some housemothers were successful in spite of the odds. "Mrs. 

[Mummsie's successor] is a wonderful, wonderful person. You 

may not appreciate her fully at first, but the more the year goes 
on . . ." 35 So was Isabelle Trenbath, who also arranged and oversaw 
student social functions for years; so, apparently, were several others 
whom alumnae remember with great affection. The majority were 
simply neutral presences; they could rarely influence, or interfere with, 

girls already anxious for (and often deserving of) independence. " 

isn't all there," but she tries to be nice, and "it's the thought," wrote 
one youth who doubtless imagined that she herself would never age. 36 
Few blamed the housemothers for the rules that grated on them. It 
was the faculty who ordered the main power switch turned off every 
night at lights-out time, the faculty who forbade earrings for all but 
Seniors. (If you had had your ears pierced before coming to Abbot, 
you had nothing but the holes for decoration.) A 1965 alumna sees her 
three years at Abbot as a fascinating immersion in a superior academic 
experience and, out of class, in a "dying tradition that taught me a 
lot— a terrifying amount—" about the constraints most women took for 
granted just before the women's liberation movement took hold. 37 It 
was an old story at Abbot, this uneasy combination of rigorous teach- 
ing and a social context "overwhelmingly genteel," as Lise Witten has 
put it. Increasingly, Mrs. Witten and other new teachers questioned 
the arrangement. In the spring of 1965, the Trustees joined them, 
hypothesizing that Abbot's antique rule structure might after all be 
related to stagnating applications, and appointed a three-woman com- 
mittee (Helen Henry and Abby Kemper from the Trustees and Caro- 
lyn Goodwin from the faculty) to propose changes. It was a studied 
choice of personnel. Abby Castle Kemper, '31, had come back to An- 
dover from her deanship at St. Catherine's School in Virginia to marry 
John Kemper, Phillips headmaster, and was familiar both with the 
special traditions of all-girl schools, and with the pressure for more 
normal access to Abbot that Phillips's student leaders were bringing 
on her husband, who tried always to respond to their more reasonable 
requests. Carolyn Goodwin was highly respected by both faculty and 
students for her tough good sense and her saving wit; Helen Henry 
had similar qualities, along with the trust of the alumnae. This group 

358 THE FINAL DECADE, 1963-I973 

listened as attentively to students as they did to faculty, taking on 
willy-nilly an investigative role which they found discomfiting but 
necessary to the job. 

The Committee proposed no drastic changes. "We cleared out a 
lot, but there had been so many rules before, you'd hardly notice," 
says Carolyn Goodwin. All three women agreed with Mary Crane 
that clear, predictable rules were the more necessary to adolescent 
growth when the world outside was wobbling toward the unknown, 
abandoning "long-held beliefs" on its way. 38 They found it reassuring 
that Miss Porter's School and Emma Willard also required tie shoes. 
They did, however, plow up the weed-garden of little regulations and 
recommend that a student-faculty Honor Board free the Student 
Council from its disciplinary role to concentrate instead on repre- 
senting and organizing its student constituency. Cynosure came alive 
with printed exchanges on rules and educational philosophy. The 
Committee's fresh look at the rules inspired gratitude and hope in both 
students and teachers, who saw now that Abbot could be moved. 

Comings and Goings 

Perhaps the most pointed criticism the consultants had made was of 
Mary Crane's teacher-recruiting procedures; she "has relied too heavi- 
ly upon casual opportunities, as contrasted to establishing objectives 
for the academic program and then searching for the best available 
talent to fulfill it." 39 In one of her characteristically self-critical Re- 
ports to the Trustees, Mrs. Crane had summed up her part of the 

I must confess that it is difficult to assess the value of a teacher 
who applies for a position involving dormitory duty. Some who 
seemed very promising, with experience in working closely with 
girls, have proved not very capable of the leadership, guidance 
and discipline which the work calls for. This is not entirely any 
teacher's fault; I am sure there is some lack of conviction on my 
part, as well, and probably not enough administrative control 
and encouragement. 40 

One new resident teacher arrived at Abbot in time for the first faculty 
meeting, assessed her duties, and promptly left. Mrs. Crane replaced her 
almost immediately— with a person who proved nearly as poor a 
choice. 41 At the same time, the consultants welcomed the Principal's 
forceful and well documented assertion that Abbot's salaries were still 


so low as to make it nearly impossible to find experienced resident teach- 
ers. 42 They praised Abbot's success— which was really Mary Crane's 
success— in retaining "stimulating" nonresident teachers whose outside- 
Abbot interests had much enriched their relationships with students. 

The problem was widespread; it seemed that very few American 
teachers of the early sixties wanted to live in any dormitory in any 
boarding school, 43 but that did not solve Abbot's need. One of the 
Principal's most difficult tasks was to find a director of residence who 
could take on broad nonacademic responsibilities as the consultants 
had recommended. Old soldiers like Mildred Hatch ("Hatchet" of the 
Sherman House documents), who both taught Latin and oversaw Ab- 
bot's dormitory life with gruff good humor, simply could not be 
found. 44 Anyone who cared to enforce every jot and tittle of Abbot's 
out-of-class rules tended to have little energy left for the job's more 
friendly responsibilities, such as arranging social occasions and coun- 
seling students. Mrs. Crane's nominee for Director of Residence made 
herself so unpopular by her passion for propriety that girls avoided 
her. If she saw you wearing a suspiciously short skirt, you had to 
kneel on the floor in front of her to prove it would touch the carpet. 
Students taunted her by following the letter of the Sunday dress rules 
with scorn for their spirit: hats, yes, but the dowdiest or most out- 
landish you could find; stocking with runs in them ("But they're the 
only pair I have!")— all these passed inspection but infuriated the 
inspector. 45 Finally, the Trustees received so many parent complaints 
about this unbending lady that she was dropped in the middle of the 
fall term of 1965, and was replaced by Christine Von Erpecom, a 
personable and effective dramatics teacher who was given the new 
title Dean of Students. 

Mrs. Crane carried her search for teachers farther afield each year 
after the Cresap Report. True, three of the six full-time women 
brought in for 1965-66 graduated from Vassar, but MIT gave Abbot 
a math teacher that year, and Reed College had trained Carolyn Kel- 
logg (later Mrs. Salon), an inventive and demanding biology instruc- 
tor. Still, the problem would not go away. Though salaries crept up- 
ward, Mrs. Crane told the Trustees in 1966 how difficult it was to 
attract diverse faculty: all of Abbot's teachers were female, and nearly 
all were either in their twenties or over fifty, a combination that 
seemed to portend internal division and future instability. No one 
could know at the time that several of the youngsters would not teach 
a few years and move on, as so many of Abbot's young teachers had 
recently done, but would stay to build the school: Jean St. Pierre in 
English, Faith Howland Kaiser in classics, Jean Bennett in mathe- 

360 THE FINAL DECADE, 1963-1973 

matics, and Mary Minard, '55, who became at age twenty-five one of 
the best organized chairmen the History Department had ever boasted, 
as well as Carolyn Kellogg Salon and others already mentioned. 

Abbot had special cause for discouragement in 1964, when Isabel 
Hancock, the last of Miss Hearsey's Virginian friends, died tragically 
of cancer. Still vigorous and comely in her fifties, Miss Hancock had 
welcomed hundreds of applicants and new girls from her admissions 
office, given old girls her time as a friend and quiet adviser, and taught 
many of them mathematics or astronomy. "A beautiful person" says 
one young teacher, who only came to know her courage and cheer- 
fulness as it shone through illness. Her strength waxed and waned 
through an agonizing series of treatments, and most of Abbot clung to 
each shred of hope till all was hopeless. "It was a heartbreaking time," 
a parent remembers, and when it was over, "a light had gone out." 
Students and faculty together organized a special memorial service and 
a fund drive for a mathematics prize to be given in Isabel Hancock's 
honor. She would not be forgotten, and her absence only underscored 
the rarity of those devoted, single teachers on which Abbot had so 
long depended. 46 

Now the key position of admissions director had to be filled. 
The consultants had urged that Abbot find an admissions expert who 
could recruit as well as graciously receive, a tall order given the 
$6,500 salary projected for the position. Mrs. Crane thought she had 
what Abbot needed in a rather elderly woman who had worked 
in girls' schools admissions through the 1950's; she hired her without 
consulting the Board, as was her privilege. The new Director was con- 
scientious, and (say, several teachers and parents) fatally aristocratic. 
Invariably, she dwelt on Abbot's Brahmin connections when candidates 
came to visit. Her notes on interviews stressed each girl's clothes, her 
"poise," and the gentility (or lack thereof) of the parents who had 
brought the candidate. In a year when several poised but mediocre stu- 
dents were accepted, she turned down a brilliant applicant whose face 
and accent were apparently all wrong (as a Bryn Mawr student, the 
same girl urged her sister to apply to a new Abbot Admissions Office, 
and the sister was accepted). A high point of her year was the first 
faculty meeting in September, when she briefly described each new stu- 
dent to the faculty ("from a fine old New York family," or "father 
with Continental Can"). 47 Instead of floating on the tide of private 
school applications through 1967, Abbot's applications slowly declined 
until they stood at 2:1 (two applicants for each place). 48 No one per- 
son can possibly be blamed for this problem— after 1967, all private 
school applications began to sink— but the Trustees were enough con- 


cerned about admissions to ask Mrs. Crane's appointee to retire a year 
early, and to replace the old admissions operation with an entirely dif- 
ferent team for the last four years. Competence and long experience in 
the world of traditional girl's schools were not enough to meet the 
challenges of the sixties. 49 

Finally, the woman who had hired and fired and overseen all for 
eleven years was herself replaced by this determined, activist Board of 
Trustees. Again, Philip Allen led the change-makers. "I think the po- 
sition of Chairman is just exactly what you make of it," says Allen 
now. "You don't want to interfere, but sometimes you have to." 
Beginning with his election to the Chair in the fall of 1965, Allen 
"interfered" until an entirely new administration took over in 1968. 
Not that he was alone: nearly all of the Board supported him with ex- 
perienced sympathy both for the Principal and the long-term needs of 
the Academy. Most of the Trustees seem privately to have agreed that 
Mary Crane should have about two years to work within the new 
administrative guidelines, but if she could not move fast enough, they 
were prepared to ask for her resignation. They admired their Principal 
as a "superb teacher," 50 a humane and hardworking person— in fact, 
their very fondness for her and their gratitude for her effort caused 
them to put off for a year the final resolution of her tenure. 51 Who 
could fail to be touched by a Principal whose central charge to her- 
self and her faculty was that "we ... be able to love: our work, our 
subjects, our students, our colleagues and even ourselves"? 52 Never- 
theless, they had begun to feel that the rush and pressure of events 
now required more energetic, more focused leadership if Abbot was 
to do more than drift. These days, to drift might be to drown; and 
this Principal was functioning rather like a skillful dean who fields 
day-to-day problems, but never really digs into the task of planning 
for the long future. 53 "It was a holding operation," says one teacher. 
For all her successes in helping troubled individuals, recent alumnae as 
a whole were not behind her. Money talks, and so do money-raisers: 
Tamblyn and Brown, Abbot's fund-raising consultants who came once 
more in 1966 to survey the field for a major campaign, found that over 
half of the 45 alumnae they questioned felt the current administration 
was weak. "She didn't seem happy in her job by the time we left," 
a 1964 alumna remembers. A 1962 graduate has said for many: "Mary 
Crane was a wonderful person, but she should never have been a 

Perhaps more accurately, the sixties were not the right time for the 
kind of principal Mary Crane could be. In voice, in demeanor— in all 
her virtues as well-she was "Old New England, Old School," 54 while 

362 THE FINAL DECADE, I963-I973 

Abbot was groping toward new modes of thought and action. She 
herself knew that "in the great stirring of energy and imagination 
within the field of education, now there is no possibility of remaining 
static." 55 As one of the first Directors of the National Association of 
Independent Schools (two years) and a member of the NEACSS Ex- 
ecutive Board, she had long been in on the exchange of ideas which 
these organizations fostered. 56 Now the NAIS spread news of innova- 
tive courses and teaching methods in every one of its conferences and 
publications, and numbers of the Trustees read the NAIS Bulletin. 57 
Activities on the Hilltop supplied another goad to Abbot. Phil Allen 
was Trustee for Phillips Academy as well as for Abbot, while Gren- 
ville Benedict was simultaneously Abbot Trustee and Phillips Dean of 
Students. Phillips had just finished a $6,000,000 building program, had 
expanded the scholarship program to open Phillips to any qualified 
boy, no matter what his family's income, had raised faculty salaries to 
match the top secondary schools in the country, and was embarking 
on a detailed examination of curriculum, admissions, school gover- 
nance, and residential life through a faculty-administration steering 
committee that was fully prepared to propose radical changes, if neces- 
sary, to bring Phillips in line with the soundest of reformist ideas. 

Ironically, Mary Crane's own ideal of a dynamic, responsive school 
also inspired her Board to ask whether Abbot could not more quickly 
become such a school with a fresh principal. Mrs. Crane identified the 
basic problem in spring of 1963: 

The trouble— and the fearful responsibility— is to guess what kind 
of training we must give girls who are growing up in a world 
that seems totally different from the one in which we found our 
experience. 58 

No adult grown to womanhood in that "totally different" world 
could have tried harder to bridge the distance to her students' lives. 
Through difficult times she had maintained Abbot's strength even if 
she could not increase it; thanks to her efforts and those of her most 
energetic teachers, the old Academy was poised for forward move- 
ment at a time when a few other girls' schools seemed hopelessly 
stuck. When two Trustees spoke to her informally in the winter of 
1966 and told her she must resign following her sabbatical leave in 
1966-67, she was neither surprised nor angry. She knew her limitations 
as an administrator, and she soon found herself longing to do more of 
what she had done supremely well: teaching, and leading students on 
archeological tours of the ancient world. The last thing in her mind 
was to dig in her heels and shout for grievance procedures, as did a 


late fifties principal of the Masters School, who with her assistant 
simply refused to budge until she was fired. One of Mary Crane's most 
valuable qualities as an educator had been a conviction born of the 
changes in her own life that personal growth never stopped, that one 
"should be continuously aware of the tension between knowledge 
gained and knowledge yet to be won." 59 In the spring of 1966 Pierce 
College in Athens invited Mrs. Crane to serve as Interim Principal for 
the High School division. By summer she had thrown all her energy 
into planning for this new work, and by November the Trustees had 
received her letter of resignation and accepted it "with regret." 60 The 
following year she would begin a second career of art and history 
teaching at the Winsor School in Boston, where her talents have been 
much in demand for ten years. From Boston and from Athens she has 
generously cheered Abbot on, returning for her youngest daughter's 
graduation and for other grand occasions, and enjoying those special 
alumnae friends to whom she was— and still is— Principal. 

"Make No Little Plans" 

Everything that once certified culture and 

civilization is in doubt. 

. . . The school manager of the old style is a lost man. 

Peter Schrag, quoted by Donald Gordon 

An explosion is an explosion, and an explosion is 

never done little by little. 

Germaine Arosa, interview 

Resignation became Mary Crane's choice because she wished the best 
for Abbot, and she realized that new directions must be steered by a 
fresh hand. 1 For much the same reason, Eleanor Tucker took herself 
out of the running for Principal 2 — although she agreed in 1966 to serve 
as Acting Principal while the Trustees began their two-year search for 
the leader Abbot seemed to need. 

Eleanor Tucker did much more than wait to be replaced. She had 
been chemistry teacher, corridor teacher, Director of Studies, college 
counselor, and Vice Principal. Abbot had been her life for thirty 
years, and she felt ready to lead the school. 3 "Tuck" was— and is— a 
person utterly without pretensions, a tireless, selfless worker who for 
years had symbolized the no-nonsense side of Abbot's personality. Her 
training was in science, her talents were with methods rather than with 
words. The words she did find useful were not metaphors but labels: 
factual labels which inspired truthful exchange, free of emotional en- 
tanglements. A student in trouble who, relishing some exquisite per- 
sonal problem, presented it as rationale for aberrant behavior got a 
hearing, a brusque, cheerful warning, and a girl-scout handshake. No 
brooding allowed in the Principal's office. Verbal embellishments were 
as foreign to Miss Tucker as a Dior dress: her inevitable hand-tooled 
western belt was all the decoration she required. 

In addition to her personal strengths, she had one great political 
advantage: "Everyone in the school really liked Tucker," as one 
teacher has said. "She was so real and warm and generous. You could 
tell her anything." And when she disagreed, she accepted your view 


as a reality to be dealt with, not a balloon to be pricked or a threat to 
her pride. Her friendships crossed barriers of age, of temperament, of 
intellectual acuity— even of altitude on Andover Hill, for she had won 
the respect of all the Hilltop teachers who knew her work as the first 
dean of girls in the Phillips Academy Summer School. There were 
tensions enough in the outside world; Abbot needed a familiar hand to 
consolidate the institutional changes already initiated by the Trustees. 
No one expected an acting principal endlessly to attend professional 
meetings, as Mary Crane had done, or to build images of self and Ab- 
bot among affluent alumnae as the next permanent principal must do. 
"Tuck" stayed home and tended to business, continuing as college 
counselor and (through 1966-67) as Director of Studies on top of her 
Principal's duties. 

There was plenty of business. Encouraged by the Trustees, Miss 
Tucker supported one new initiative after another, including several 
that were quite out of her ken. "A great innovator," says Virginia 
Powel, describing Miss Tucker's receptivity to an expanded art pro- 
gram and its unconventional and imaginative new teachers, Audrey 
Bensley for ceramics and Wendy Snyder for photography. Neither 
cared two cents for ancient girls' schools as such; they simply saw 
Abbot as a place where work could be done, and it wasn't long before 
they and their students were building their own kilns and darkrooms. 4 
Girls chafing for "real" work met both its joys and frustrations at the 
potter's wheel or in dawn-lit photo-taking sessions ("the shadows are 
good then," Wendy told them), and spoke their own lives as they 
searched out others' in North End pizzerias— for documentary pho- 
tography was Wendy Snyder's special art. Several who had teetered 
on the edge of the drug scene teetered back again, needing clarity to 
practice craft. 5 

Similarly, Miss Tucker and the Trustees finally made up Abbot's 
mind to hire a consulting psychiatrist, and to help teachers get expert 
training in counseling. And when Jean Bennett realized that the new 
student generation's seeming sophistication about sex almost always 
disguised deep ignorance, Miss Tucker rearranged Jean's mathematics 
teaching schedule to allow her to create a sex education course. If 
Tuck got more than she bargained for, she never blanched. The first 
full year's course was a series of films and lectures by gynecologists 
to which many teachers came, bringing questions that Abbot girls had 
never heard adults ask before. "There was a world of fear-of-sex em- 
bodied in the old Abbot," says Carolyn Goodwin. The "effort to open 
up hidden subjects" was both "strenuous and immensely rewarding" in 
that it freed discussion throughout the Abbot community. "Is mastur- 

366 THE FINAL DECADE, 1963-1973 

bation harmful?" asked one worried girl of the physician-of-the-week. 
"No, it isn't, if you aren't feeling guilty about it," was the answer, 
"and a lot of people do it at one time or another. Don't be surprised if 
you're not the only one on your floor to try it." Whereupon Ger- 
maine Arosa put on her gloves and walked out. But the next day's 
French classes bubbled with conversation (in French) about the lec- 
ture, and Mile. Arosa was reassured by Miss Tucker, who told her she 
was sure the doctor wasn't actually advocating masturbation. Jean 
Bennett was immensely relieved when Mile. Arosa returned to the 
lectures, and joined again in the discussions. 6 

That year it may have been just as well that the Phillips faculty 
refused to allow boys to attend the Abbot sex education course. Gren- 
ville Benedict, Phillips Dean of Students and Abbot Trustee, thought 
Phillips should have welcomed this near-first in modern Abbot-Phillips 
history, where Abbot moved into new territory and invited Phillips 
along. Now it was the Phillips administrators who balked before the 
unknown, anxious over the restiveness of their own students as they 
had not been since the Abolitionist cause came to Andover Hill; for 
the Phillips boy-men were beginning to share in that anguish over 
Vietnam and the draft which were to shape young people's views 
toward adult authority for years to come. 

Phillips and Abbot students did join one another in community 
service groups, tutoring school children in Lawrence and organizing a 
"Contemporary Social Issues" conference on racism. The Phillips Asian 
Society became co-ed. Abbot flocked up the Hill to see the boys and 
hear such speakers as Professor John K. Fairbank of Harvard, as well 
as singers like Judy Collins. Abbot girls were not only welcome at 
Cochran Chapel every Sunday; Abbot allowed them to attend. An 
Abbot-Phillips daily mail service flourished, legally now. There were 
at least a dozen Abbot-Phillips dances and concerts each semester. The 
Phillips Drama Lab launched more Abbot actresses every month. An 
awe-inspiring King Lear was played on Phillips' main stage, and 
Goneril, Regan, and Cordelia were Abbot boarders, not Phillips fac- 
ulty wives. In the Phillips-Abbot Madrigal Society, now five years old, 
males and females sang instead of flirting, because there was work to 
do together and plenty of chance to flirt elsewhere. 

It would have taken heroic effort to run a dull school in these two 
years, 1966-68. The blue-clad Seniors with their red roses and bag- 
pipes had marched down School Street as always for the 1966 Com- 
mencement, but Norman Thomas, the head of the American Socialist 
Party, was there awaiting them with a powerful Commencement 
speech, which he delivered out of his husk of a body in a voice that 


filled the church, and still sounds in the minds of those who were 
there that day. 7 Cynosure published article upon article of aching, in- 
trospective argument over black power and white guilt. For the first 
time since Miss Bailey had arrived, the value of Abbot's numerical 
grades and publicized honor roll was questioned by teachers as well as 
students, "new emphasis on learning," announced Cynosure 9, as all 
numerical grades were eliminated. For the first time, too, there were 
scattered instances of drug use, along with utter bewilderment among 
the faculty as to how to respond. Then there were the Abbot peren- 
nials: Student Councils pushing for yet one more dining-out day for 
Seniors, for a few more hours when telephone calls might be made 
and received, for sandals on Saturdays, and all the little freedoms 
which meant so much and were still doled out so niggardly. By ad- 
ministrative decree, Phillips-Abbot couples still paced the Circle in 
front of Draper Hall of a spring day like tigers in a cage, instead of 
making free of either campus as they had often asked to do. And in 
spite of (or was it because of?) the new contacts with Phillips boys, 
alumnae remember a pervasive sense of anxiety which had never oc- 
curred to the Abbot girls of Miss Means's and Miss Bailey's day: how 
well, really, did Abbot measure up beside Phillips? Some Phillips intel- 
lectuals delighted in perpetuating the stereotypes that seem to have 
dogged the two schools ever since the late forties. As Mary Crane puts 
it, "You should have heard some of those P. A. Seniors telling the Ab- 
bot girls that they knew nothing, but nothing, especially in the field of 
American history." Even close-hand reality could not shake the stereo- 
types. Where Miss Bailey's students had disdained the typical Phillips 
boy as richly as he disdained the typical Abbot girl, a '59 alumna "felt 
that the boys up on the Hill were far superior— except the ones [she] 
knew." "They seemed so much more grown-up than we were," adds 
Kathy Dow, '55, "Why, they were reading Hemingway and Faulkner, 
and we were reading Thomas Hardy and Joseph Conrad!" The sheer 
numbers of Hilltop students— three times the Abbot enrollment— and 
the grandeur of the campus weighted many comparisons irrationally 
in Phillips' favor. The inferiority theme appears over and over in the 
recollections of recent alumnae. 9 Contrary views also tended to be 
stereotypical. "How much do you see of the Phillips boys?" a visiting 
Abbot applicant asked her student guide. The answer: "We see about 
as much of them as we can stand." 10 

Unknown to most students of these two years, forces both seen and 
unseen were gathering to push Abbot and Phillips closer together. As 
early as 1957, Abbot faculty had talked coordinate education among 
themselves while gearing up for the NEACSS Evaluation Committee. 11 

368 THE FINAL DECADE, 1963-1973 

A decade later, the Phillips faculty was beginning to respond. By the 
fall of 1967 a Phillips- Abbot committee had been formed to plan a 
wide range of shared activities. And there was more. The Trustees' 
search for a permanent principal meant a host of decisions as to the 
kind of school the New Abbot Academy should be. Philip Allen had 
made at least one decision of his own years before, when he deter- 
mined that somehow, some day, Phillips and Abbot should become one 
institution. Though none breathed a word of this hidden agenda ex 
camera— Allen spoke in public of the great advantages of coordination 
without merger— he and his Search Committee colleagues were look- 
ing for someone who could carry it out if ever the opportunity arose. 12 

Given the size and nature of the challenge, it seemed to the Search 
Committee a man's job. This was not a put-down of women but an 
assessment of political realities: it appeared fairly certain that a man 
could cope more successfully with the "rather Roman Senate environ- 
ment" of the Hilltop, if not with the "extreme degree of chauvinism" 
that characterized some Phillips alumni. 13 Men also had a better repu- 
tation as fund-raisers, deserved or not. Just as the original Abbot Fe- 
male Academy seemed to need male leadership to confer legitimacy 
on its birth and infancy before 1852, so American society in the mid- 
sixties, suspicious of spinsters and career women, thought it felt safer 
to have males running schools. Besides, high-powered women adminis- 
trators were still as few as they had been in the fifties; several girls' 
schools had recently chosen male principals, and even the exhaustive 
search that Bryn Mawr was making for a new president at this time 
would not turn up a woman. 14 

The question seemed settled by the fact that no women from out- 
side the conservative boarding school world were willing to apply for 
the job. Nor, at first, were any outstanding men. Sixty candidates 
came and went. It was a full year before the Search Committee learned 
through Phil Allen's son-in-law of a man named Donald Gordon who 
headed the Barstow School, a nourishing day school in Kansas City. 
In his two years at Barstow, Gordon had helped bring boys into the 
upper elementary division and black students into the entire school. 
The upper school was still all girls; Donald Gordon had been a mis- 
sionary for coeducation, but a politic one, who had shown himself an 
able leader for both male and female in a day-school setting. Philip 
Allen opened a correspondence with him— and it warmed with each 
exchange. Gordon immediately responded to Allen's enthusiasm for 
change with his own large optimism; Allen was impressed. After all, 
the Trustees were asking for an experienced innovator, a person with 
no commitments to the old Abbot, eager to design a new school. 15 


Gordon was only 33 years old, but he had taught in private schools all 
over the country since receiving his Master's degree in American his- 
tory from the University of Pennsylvania. Such restlessness did not 
seem strange in the convulsive sixties: youth felt almost obliged to 
seek, reject, and seek again, always looking for the elbow room a 
change-maker requires. This innovator had the biggest elbows that had 
ever pushed Abbot anachronisms out of the way, and a pair of shoul- 
ders that looked ready for any burden. The Trustees marveled at their 
find when Gordon flew east in August to meet the full Board. Stand- 
ing 6'y'\ the candidate's frame matched his larger-than-life visions of 
Abbot's future. At the same time, his sympathies were both ready and 
generous: "An ideal head for a girls' school," said Trustee Rogers, 
who never veered from that opinion no matter how strong the cross- 
winds of the next five years. 

The Search Committee had done the preliminary work with such 
care that it took only two weeks for the Board to decide on Donald 
Gordon, and less time for Gordon to accept. Barstow was sorry to see 
him leave— except for one trustee, who had labeled him "a spend- 
thrift," the single qualification to the high praise Abbot had heard 
of him. 16 

It is impossible to know for certain what Donald Gordon had in 
mind by giving up the security of his Barstow position and accepting 
the Abbot job, but some educated guesses are possible. As with Miss 
Hearsey, history counted: "Abbot had always been a solid academic 
institution. It didn't attract fluffy heads," Gordon says. And in spite of 
his wanderings westward, New England itself had a powerful hold on 
this Massachusetts-born graduate of Phillips Academy and Yale, a per- 
son much moved by seasons and daily weather, whose inner thoughts 
are shaped by the age of the houses and trees along the street where 
he lives or by the character of the nearest mountain range. New En- 
gland meant stability, an anchor to a continental imagination. Andover 
Hill in particular invited the closing of a circle uncomfortably open 
for a man who was now ready to come to terms with his own adoles- 
cence. Gordon had felt uneasy at Phillips. "Odd man out," he says: too 
tall, too serious, too hungry for dream time ever to be comfortable in 
the bustling round of Hilltop life— though many boys respected him, and 
his Greek teacher set aside low grades to marvel at his "fine poetic 
sense and appreciation of the moral sublimity of Homer," predicting 
that he would "do surprisingly well as he matures." 17 Don Gordon had 
had his share of discomfort over a mediocre academic record (he dis- 
liked science and mathematics) and a sense of isolation from peers less 
sensitive than he. To show what he could do to lead Abbot handsome- 

370 THE FIN AL DECADE, I963-I973 

ly would be to win a recognition that Andover Hill had largely de- 
nied him before. "We'll show 'em!" said Gordon again and again in 
his five years at Abbot. It was a goad Abbot would use well, on the 
whole, just as any good teacher tends to learn more from his difficul- 
ties than from his successes. His slow-growing but exhilarating mastery 
of American literature and history at Yale had taught him how near- 
sighted is the school that types any youngster too soon. He wanted to 
bring the best of his Phillips Academy experience to Abbot, but he 
also wanted deeply to create a school where any adolescent willing to 
do her— or his— part could grow and thrive. 

Several people close to Gordon think he must have held in the back 
of his mind the possibility that he might eventually head the single 
coeducational school of which Philip Allen dreamed. What man of 
ambition would not have done? they want to know. Gordon insists 
this is not the case. Allen had told him at the outset "that he had only 
one task, and this was to bring Abbot up to the point where it could 
be part of Phillips Academy. 'You're going to merge yourself right 
out of a job,' " Allen remembers saying to Gordon, as they talked 
calmly about all the animosities that were bound to surface in any 
effort to combine two schools. The idea was easy enough to accept at 
the time, says Gordon. He assumed Abbot would be going strong for 
eight or ten years at the least, and to a young man, ten years is an age. 
There is, however, a poignant tone to all his outside-Abbot writings 
on the role of a principal. 18 Invariably, in his third-person accounts of 
his own experience, he refers not to "the principal," but to "the head- 
master." His traditional boarding school head had to become both a 
"new man" and a "super-teacher" 19 in order to remain "headmaster." 
The word itself implies both power and confirmation of masculinity. 
Though he would never be called headmaster on Andover Hill, he 
would strive always to become the ideal man whom the title evoked 
for him. 

Whatever Gordon's private thoughts about the years to come, there 
was no doubt that Abbot had once again engaged an extraordinarily 
interesting and complex person for its principal. He visited Andover in 
November 1967 to meet Abbot students and discuss coordination of 
social activities with Phillips' Dean of Students John Richards, II. Ab- 
bot was fascinated. "The purpose of education is to make a person 
civilized and brave," he told eager ears. "School must be a dialogue 
among students and faculty," rather than a closed system imposed by 
adults. More men teachers were needed he said, (Abbot had one full- 
time male in the fall of 1967) for a more natural learning environ- 
ment. 20 "How do we get there tomorrow?" student reporters wanted 


to know. Gordon, cautious, stuck with generalizations for the time 
being. As it was, the promise of good things to come was enough to 
lift from its fall-term doldrums a student body grown tired of waiting. 
Smelling freedom in the wind, the Class of '68 "fought for changes" in 
an effort that left Cynosure writers exulting, "It's truly getting better 
all the time." 21 Eleanor Tucker, who had poured into her triple-tiered 
job "all my time and energy, and what wisdom and compassion I 
have," 22 prepared to resume her role as Director of Studies, surrounded 
by a gratitude almost powerful enough to overcome her weariness 
and her misgivings about Abbot's future under a man barely known. 
Amid the encomiums, a headline in the last Cynosure of the year told 
what students were thinking of the year to come: 


you ain't seen nothing yet. 

"Beginnings are wonderful for their freshness." 24 

The first two years of the Gordon administration were a dizzying ride 
up heights of aspiration and success and down into confusion and near 
despair. Only the Principal rode the whole track: others would get 
out and walk for a while after a particularly exciting section of the 
ride and miss the plunges, and a few left the roller-coaster altogether. 
Teachers and staff members hired by Miss Hearsey, Mrs. Crane, and 
Miss Tucker kept time-honored Abbot routines going while Gordon 
surged ahead, designing the new track to be thrown up before him as 
he rode. And students. As had happened before in times of turmoil, 
most students went through Abbot picking and choosing what worked 
for them from an ever richer jumble of offerings, and found the 
school a good place for growing. They learned useful lessons about 
adult fallibility which no one intended to teach. Perhaps most im- 
portant, Donald Gordon made them conscious as never before of their 
responsibility for their own education. The malcontents stopped blam- 
ing Abbot when things went awry and sought or created more suc- 
cessful alternatives. There are older alumnae and faculty who see 
these two years as "a catastrophe" (as three have put it) but very few 
students will agree. Whether Abbot unwittingly did these few real 
damage is a haunting question, impossible to answer. The outside- 
Abbot world was damaging lives every day, and one feels that, on 
the whole, Abbot girls were better off inside. 

A new principal is supposed to go slow, and at the very beginning, 
Gordon did. The trappings of the old Abbot remained intact through 
much of Year One: students rose to greet their classroom teacher 

372 THE FIN AL DECADE, I963-I973 

every day; maids pushed tea carts to the faculty room at Tiffin time; 
traditional dress was the rule. (One new teacher remembers appearing 
on campus wearing sandals on her first hot-weather working day, and 
being told by a veteran that stockings and closed-toed shoes were 
required.) All the pomp and circumstance the school could muster 
went into a grand Installation for Donald Gordon, organized to a T 
by Dorothy Judd, Convocation Chairman. Town and Hill gathered to 
welcome Gordon; South Church rang with Bertha Bailey's (and 
Vaughan Williams') "Hymn of Praise," Trustee Emeritus Sidney 
Lovett of Yale prayed everyone in, and Reverend Graham Baldwin of 
Phillips— retired but much loved by the generations of Abbot girls 
who had taken his Bible course— pronounced the Benediction. In be- 
tween, Richard Sewall, one of Don Gordon's favorite English teachers 
at Yale and the major speaker, grappled with the present dilemmas of 
young people. They are buffeted between champions of feeling and 
champions of the intellect, Sewall said, between radicals who see soci- 
ety as hopelessly corrupt and an Educational Establishment struggling 
to hold the same society together. "Make no little plans, Don, this is a 
boiling and seething age," Sewall advised his one-time student. Gordon 
answered in his own address that he planned to do no less than bring 
Abbot in line "possibly for the first time" with "the proud rhetoric" 
of its current catalogue and its original charter. The independent 
schools' struggle for survival in an era of declining applications obliged 
Abbot to be daring. Each adult and student in the Abbot community 
must become "sensitive enough to realize what is worth saving and 
tough enough to manage its implementation." The crowd loved it. 

On campus, it was honeymoon time. The year's Crane's Beach picnic 
was a coeducational festival of sand-castle building, soccer games, and 
touch football earnestly joined by the Principal, who outreached all 
the boys as well as the girl players. Don's wife Josie and their small 
son Jamie were there too, winning hearts. Phillips-Abbot social activi- 
ties continued to proliferate just as they would likely have done had 
Miss Tucker still been head; coeducational political and artistic activi- 
ties boomed, all of them duly reported by an extraordinarily able and 
enthusiastic Cynosure board— and much of the credit naturally fell on 
Donald Gordon. He would always have a good press at Abbot and 
beyond, no matter what happened. The Principal helped students in- 
itiate two "Creative Days" at the beginning of winter term, when each 
student and teacher followed whatever craft or art she had been long- 
ing to try. According to Cynosure, it was Abbot's "trivial traditions" 
that "inhibited creative change," not its Principal, and Cynosure cam- 
paigned to topple every one of them." 25 "I was working to build a per- 



sonal base with the student body," says Gordon now. "I wasn't think- 
ing in terms of confrontation with the faculty, but I did want the 
students' good will in whatever I did and I wanted it quickly." He was 
getting it, too. The Cynosure Editor-in-Chief talked both with Gordon 
and with his student admirers and marveled at his "way of making 

50. Donald Gordon on Prize Day. 

374 THE FINAL DECADE, 1963-1973 

everyone feel special." Important as he was, he wanted most of all to 
be "a human being," she wrote. He already was "a teacher, an adviser, 
a friend and a father." 26 Almost immediately, friendship had been con- 
clusively demonstrated by declaring that students might leave campus 
almost any weekend. The new Abbot would be open: let the restless 
stretch their souls outside the walls if they wished. 27 "Our headmaster 
has an extraordinarily humane understanding of today's youth," the 
reporters intoned as the fall went on. 28 

Of course other faculty had agreed to the move toward open week- 
ends, just as they had planned for months the modified modular class 
schedule that went into effect in September, but the new administra- 
tion got the cheers. That was perfectly all right with those teachers 
who welcomed the changes. The Abbot faculty had never pretended 
it participated in a democracy. Like several of his predecessors, Gordon 
carefully informed the faculty that first year, and consulted them on 
curricular matters, but rarely asked them to decide anything of school- 
wide importance. Later on, as Gordon became more rushed and har- 
ried, he would employ the more arbitrary features of Abbot's hier- 
archical tradition and sow anger as well as assent, but for now, the 
faculty were delighted to be discussing the tough, fascinating educa- 
tional issues he brought before them or assigned to various faculty 
committees, instead of debating whether girls should be allowed to 
sit on their newly made beds in the morning. 29 If a few of the older 
faculty gathered in a knot of discontent at Tiffin time to talk away 
their annoyance at the power students seemed to have gained over the 
Principal, most teachers quietly backed his initiatives. 

Their support was not blind loyalty. Whether or not they agreed 
with all of Gordon's ideas, most were convinced that institutions must 
somehow respond to the yearnings and fears of this generation of 
students. Abbot girls would never be quite the same after the political 
assassinations and urban riots of spring, 1968, or the mayhem in Chi- 
cago at the Democratic convention that summer: the school must 
speak to their needs. Besides, teaching was simply more fun than it had 
been in recent years. Gordon had been concerned about Abbot's 
casual student-counseling system, but what Faith Howland Kaiser 
noticed now was that girls were filled with "a sense of hope, excite- 
ment and change," and that the little Latin problems that had been 
an excuse for asking her special attention in the afternoons had van- 
ished. Several teachers had thought the required mixers "terrible"; 30 
now they quietly became optional. The five-minute limit on boy-girl 
sidewalk conversation lapsed into oblivion. "It was such a relief!" says 
one teacher of the many small changes that allowed her to concentrate 

"make no little plans 375 

on teaching instead of defending faded rules. Don Gordon showed his 
respect for teaching by joining the two United States history teachers 
and doing some teaching himself in a series of topical seminars which 
the three set up together and conducted simultaneously all winter. 

This was his last as well as his first teaching at Abbot. As resistance 
hardened among the few old-Abbot hold-outs and hiring decisions for 
the following year had to be made, Gordon left more and more of the 
daily chores to Miss Tucker and retreated into his office to plan for the 
next year. The endangered Admissions Director tried to plead with 
him for one more year's contract, but somehow she could never find 
an appointment time that was convenient for him. "He just couldn't 
face her," one teacher recalls. 31 Another Crane appointee— in Miss 
Tucker's words, an "honorable, vigorous, imaginative teacher"— began 
experiencing trouble with her classes, but she could not get his atten- 
tion, so absorbing and difficult were his other problems, and she left, 
embittered. Others resigned of their own accord. Germaine Arosa and 
Donald Gordon had met each other's match. She had never liked 
Gordon, she says, and the feeling seems to have been mutual. She 
thought he was "wrecking the place," yet she felt that all constructive 
channels by which she might help were being closed to her. Philip 
Allen had urged Gordon to hear out his critics with a third person in 
the room, but this was complicated to arrange; the result was that he 
rarely met with the critics at all. Already beyond retirement age, 
Mademoiselle Arosa decided early on that this would be her last year, 
and she knew she was powerless. 32 This seemed the more clear after 
she and another teacher had taken their complaints about a third fac- 
ulty member over the Principal's head to the Trustees and reaped noth- 
ing but the whirlwind of Gordon's anger. 33 It disturbed her deeply 
that Gordon seemed too busy to appreciate some of her closest faculty 
friends, or to further their plans and suggestions, such as those Margot 
Warner made for the Music Department. In the end, Mile. Arosa and 
Miss Warner both resigned; after them would go the modern Abbot's 
most enduring teacher, Eleanor Tucker. 

Miss Tucker's resignation in mid-spring of 1969 was a terrific blow 
to the Abbot community, even to those Trustees who had seen it 
coming. Gordon could not help being saddened by his differences with 
a person so much beloved by others, but he was philosophical. "By the 
time I got to Abbot I had long since concluded that all educational 
problems are problems of culture, not problems of personality," he says. 

I found myself measuring this person who had been acting head 
and was now my employee in terms of our cultural compatibility. 

376 TH E F IN AL DECADE, 1963-1973 

I think the important question is this: You have to ask what are 
the perceptions of development of young people that this person 
holds. As a team, an administrative group must conform to the 
overall objectives, although individuals can differ. I was the one 
responsible. The first fall and winter there were endless outcrop- 
pings of difference about how to approach problems of dealing 
with adolescent girls. We did agree that we needed a college 
counseling person, so I offered her this college counseling job 
and decided to get a new director of studies. This was an effort 
to find a place where Tuck would be comfortable. Then she 
herself decided to leave and I was greatly relieved. I confess that 
I saw people like Tuck as cultural artifacts in themselves. 

It is heartening that several of the "cultural artifacts" found important 
work to do almost immediately, Mile. Arosa as a French instructor at 
the University of Massachusetts and at the Boston University Music 
School, and Eleanor Tucker as Principal of Winchester-Thurston, a 
thriving girls' day school (kindergarten through twelfth grade) in 
Pittsburgh. Abbot had nurtured their talents through these long years 
as richly as it had those of so many students: they too were prepared 
for lives beyond the walls. 

Don Gordon had prescribed for himself in his Installation address: 
The independent school must "be conservative when dealing with 
people, but fearlessly revolutionary when dealing with systems and 
methods." Yet Abbot's systems could not be changed without the 
radical sacrifice of people— "No matter what Don had done with 
Mile. Arosa, it would have been wrong," says one teacher— and some 
of the new people whom Gordon was courting to replace the old for 
1969-70 would swing the systems so far left by the force of their own 
lust for change that Gordon himself would wonder if the two can 
ever be separated, except in speeches. Nevertheless, administrators must 
never stop struggling, for systems and people— and money— are all 
they have. Principal and Trustees sat down together in the spring and 
summer of 1969 to create what new systems they could to make reali- 
ties out of their visions. 

Their most far-reaching decision was to launch at last the New Ab- 
bot Fund to increase radically both salaries and scholarships and to 
build a center for the arts near the Abbot-Phillips border, a facility 
long dreamed of at Abbot which could serve both schools. 34 Abbot 
had planned and delayed major endowment fund drives since 1930; 
now the need for more endowment was clear to everyone. It was 
not just the palpable sense that Abbot's competitors were catching up 


with, and surpassing, the old Academy with their own endowment 
drives (though they were); 35 Abbot must have insurance for any 
future, whether with Phillips or alone. 

None could now fault the Trustees for holding back on fund rais- 
ing, 36 but the grand plan had its critics. Tamblyn and Brown found 
the $3,000,000 goal overambitious, given Abbot's consituency. Others 
felt the strategy too luxurious: with these bold development plans 
came a new public relations staff and a Director of Development, 
Richard Sheahan, whom Don Gordon knew from his teaching days in 
California. There was no way of knowing that Sheahan's office would 
amply pay for itself in the years to come, and that Sheahan himself 
would prove an indispensable balance wheel as Abbot's forward en- 
gines built up to full steam. Jane Baldwin, always cautious, asked 
whether it was not far too soon to commit funds to a building before 
programmatic questions of coordination had been decided. She and 
others questioned the wisdom of opening the New Abbot drive before 
most of Abbot had any idea what the new Abbot would be; they 
were not content with the daring answers they received from Allen 
and Gordon, who had been mapping the future together for months. 
Already alumnae seemed to be hesitating: after years of increase, do- 
nations to the Annual Fund had dipped $1,000 in 1968-69. 37 But most 
of the Trustees felt it was time to move. "We must have something 
special to offer Phillips," they said, "if our own bid for coordination 
on equal terms is not to be laughed out of court." When Miss Baldwin 
had heard rationales for such speedy action once too often, she would 

Donald Gordon also hired the full-time professional business man- 
ager which Cresap had urged upon the Abbot Board six years earlier. 
Now that Gardner Sutton was close to retirement, a fresh hand w r as 
needed. Richard Griggs provided it— and well that he did, for the 
budgeting and accounting procedures that had served in more stable 
times had burst at the seams in Gordon's first year. The Board had 
planned a $7,000 operating deficit for 1968-69; that first year Gordon 
authorized special projects as they came up, and Abbot finished the 
year $1 17,468 in the red. The Trustees were surprised but (with a few 
exceptions) unruffled by the bill Gordon was running up; most of the 
special expenditures seemed necessary and commendable. They had 
wanted an innovator, and they were prepared to support him. "You 
do not sit on your hands if you have been brought in to save a school," 
says Carolyn Goodwin; 38 nor do you stint to raise faculty-staff salaries 
if you are, like Gordon, a person of generous impulses, anxious to right 
past wrongs. Writing a budget for the following year proved more 

378 THE FIN AL DECADE, I963-I973 

complicated. Abbot's expenses had traditionally changed so little from 
one year to the next that the budget had never been drawn up before 
late spring. Under this system it was as difficult for Assistant Treasurer 
Gardner Sutton as it was for Donald Gordon to know what extra 
monies could be committed for 1969-70, yet most of the Trustees 
agreed with Gordon that Abbot needed a college counselor, a busi- 
ness manager, an associate admissions director, and supporting staff. 
To get them, they had no choice but to run a deficit even larger than 
the one for 1968-69. The physical plant also presented both problems 
and opportunities. Barton Chapin's sons were offering the Trustees the 
family house. Once renovated, it would make an ideal small dormitory; 
the proposal seemed far too generous to turn down given the eventual 
economies implicit in a higher enrollment. $115,500 of other renova- 
tions had been proposed to increase dormitory spaces, to provide better 
dining and study space for the burgeoning crowd of day students, and 
to make Draper Hall more pleasant and workable. 

To several Trustees it seemed insane to contemplate these expendi- 
tures; even Allen's optimism began to flag. The full Board met in 
special session at the Abbot Library on June 26, 1969, the year's bad 
news before them on balance sheets and budget projections. The mood 
was gloomy; the rational response seemed obvious: scale down, cut 
back, forget the new Abbot. 

True, there was good news to be considered too, but no hard figures 
supported it except for a thin, hopeful column of applications statistics 
for 1969-70. Nearly everyone in the room had a sense of the many 
seeds sown in the year just past, a year in which accomplishment and 
promise loomed even larger than pain— though there had been pain in 
plenty too. The Board questioned Gordon: How could Abbot possibly 
manage such deficits? Could the school attract candidates enough to 
enlarge and prosper and thus eliminate them? The most optimistic 
answers could not dispel the uncertainties yawning before the Board. 
Only faith could overcome them, and what grounds were there for 

It was Alice Sweeney who turned the tide. She rarely spoke, but 
when she did, everyone listened. "Let's finish the job!" she said. 
"Either we build a school that meets modern needs or we won't have 
any school at all." 39 "I've been blamed for everything that happened 
to Abbot since that day," laughs Miss Sweeney now. Heartened, the 
Board voted the entire renovations budget, agreed to increase the 
salary budget to $490,000 (nearly double the figure for 1964-65, in- 
cluding over twice the amount for administrative salaries than had 


been needed in 1 967-68 ), 40 and decided to ask the Phillips Trustees to 
join them in an effort finally to decide what the long-term relations 
between the two schools would be. The Principal had already discussed 
with the Business Manager-elect the mechanisms by which long-range 
educational goals could be systematically geared to financial capabili- 
ties; with James K. Dow, the Treasurer-elect, Griggs proposed that 
Abbot adopt the flexible budgetary procedures that had been developed 
by the NAIS. The Trustees felt confident that they and Griggs could 
help Gordon control Abbot's purse strings even in an age of rapid 
change, and this assurance played a crucial part in their willingness to 
move ahead. Gordon welcomed the help: he knew he would need all 
he could get. There would be no turning back now. 


A mid-fall afternoon, 1969. A mother and alumna, Class of '51, drives 
through the Gates to see her Abbot daughter for the first time. To be 
sure, they had visited the campus the year before when the daughter 
came for her interview; then, the mother had been reassured to find 
Abbot looking much as it did in her own time, with only a hand- 
somely tailored male Principal and some unfamiliar teachers whom 
Mrs. Crane or Miss Tucker had hired to break the illusion of change- 
lessness. But now! Touch football players romped on the sacred Circle. 
Not a saddle shoe was to be seen; indeed, one boy and two girls 
played with no shoes at all, in spite of November. Two pairs of faded 
blue jeans wandered by, one belted in macrame and filled by a man of 
bristling beard; he was discussing English papers with the other. After- 
noon Study Hall should be beginning just about now— but no one was 
heading for McKeen. Where had Abbot gone? Perhaps the alumna 
would find out at supper time: everyone coming freshly dressed to 
her assigned seat at table, the Grace sung to usher in a dignified meal, 
the News given. Or at daily Chapel the next morning— surely, Abbot 
would be there. 

It was not. There was no Chapel. There had been no study hall, no 
Grace, no News, no dignified dinner. The mob ate in its touch foot- 
ball clothes or its pottery-making clothes or whatever clothes it 
wished. Though several adults and two cheerful babies joined it for 
dinner, there was no assigned seating. The Phillips boys lay in wait in 
the social rooms, "calling hours" having been extended to most of the 
afternoon and evening. It would have been appalling— except that the 

380 THE FINAL DECADE, 1963-I973 

Abbot daughter was enjoying it immensely, and seemed to be learn- 
ing something to boot. Maybe one could get used to it after all. Since 
the daughter was to stay, one would try. 41 

In the second of the Gordon years, the space inside the privet hedge 
seemed if anything to amplify the revolutionary changes taking place 
in the world at large. New teachers and houseparents brought that 
world in; many veterans complemented them by virtue of their efforts 
to respond (as Abbot had always tried to respond) to students' needs. 
The first and most sweeping innovation of the year was the advent of 
a town meeting form of government to decide all out-of-classroom 
issues touching students' lives. The fall before, the old student govern- 
ment system had come apart when the Student Council president 
found herself unable to uphold the "honor system" and turn friends 
in. That was nothing new; in the early sixties, five of the six Seniors 
on one year's Student Council were among the worst rule-breakers in 
the school. 42 The novelty was in this president's refusal to hide her 
feelings from Mr. Gordon or anyone else. "Follow Abbot's rules or 
resign," said the Principal, and she resigned. Predictably, the remaining 
Council members called two old-style town meetings, closed to faculty 
and traditionally devoted to subjects such as the design of class rings, 
to discuss the situation; unpredictably the girls decided to rewrite the 
student government constitution. Warmly backed by the Principal, 
they asked Mary Minard to act as their faculty adviser, and set to 

What they came up with was nothing new in a larger world that in- 
cluded progressive schools and "free schools," 43 but it was entirely 
new to Abbot. The town meeting would meet regularly, its agenda 
organized and published in advance by its officers. These last, one fac- 
ulty and two student secretaries and one student moderator, were 
elected for two terms by the entire community, one woman (or man) 
—one vote and never mind seniority. Faculty, houseparents, and stu- 
dents also voted on equal terms at the meetings themselves, which 
were run by Robert's Rules. Anyone could propose new business once 
the old was disposed of; thus, theoretically at least, anything was dis- 
cussable— any thing. No vote could be taken except on an issue an- 
nounced beforehand, but once voted, a decision could only be re- 
viewed and vetoed by the Principal. Lacking a veto (Gordon used it 
just four times in four years), the majority vote became school policy 
a week after it had been taken. To the chagrin of some older faculty 
who knew how much Abbot traditions had meant to the girls of years 
gone by, the new school government banished all ghostly presences, 
all mystical loyalty to the historical Abbot, and defined "Abbot" as no 


more than the sum of its present parts: the students and adults who 
inhabited the campus at any given moment. It seemed an age since 
1968, when all Abbot girls had recited for the last time the traditional 
pledge at the student government induction ceremony— "banded to- 
gether in our loyalty to Abbot . . ."—and had sung "Abbot Beautiful" 
to seal it. 

To Donald Gordon, pledges and school hymns were relics of an ir- 
relevant past: young people need plain, unvarnished responsibility to 
grow on. "Students are partners in the educational enterprise," Gordon 
wrote that fall. "The human spirit needs encouragement and trust," 
and the key to faculty-student trust is "scrupulous honesty in working 
with students on school affairs." 44 Town meeting symbolized, and gen- 
erally carried forward, this central principle throughout Abbot's final 
four years. 

Truly, the new system was an open one. It exposed everyone, ready 
or not, occasionally laying bare as many reasons for distrust as for 
trust. For openers, town meeting abolished the old dress code, sub- 
stituting "neat and clean" 45 (a few teachers later wondered whether 
"underwear required" should not have been added), and determined 
that girls be allowed to skip Sunday church and attend instead a Sun- 
day evening gathering organized by the Abbot Religious Association 
(ARA), whose name had been changed to make Jewish students wel- 
come. Daily Chapel went next. It had already been eliminated at 
Phillips on the initiative of a new chaplain, who could not see how one 
could "justify compulsion at any level of worship"; 46 and Donald Gor- 
don, a searching agnostic, could not bring himself to wear the pastor's 
mantle in the McKeen-Bailey tradition. Town meetings established a 
faculty-student committee to discuss the abolition of grades. 47 At first 
it looked like revolution. For suspicious teachers, however, a few sur- 
prises lay in store. The grades committee investigated other schools' 
grading systems and organized school- wide discussions on the subject. 
Seeking to avoid a Principal's veto, the secretaries made sure the final 
committee report to town meeting culminated in a town meeting 
"resolution to the faculty" rather than a decisive vote for or against 
letter grades. This was no runaway democracy. Faculty found that 
students actually listened when they asked town meeting to consider 
larger issues such as the meaning and purpose of academic evaluation; 
as the novelty wore off and the uncommitted students stayed away, 
adults' voices counted more. 48 Still, it was an enormous change, and 
for all their frustration with the clumsiness of such an open system, 
students knew it offered them both a forum for grievances and access 
to real power, "town meeting strikes again" cheered Cynosure, an- 

382 THE FIN AL DECADE, 1963-I973 

nouncing that Abbot had voted to invite Phillips boys down after din- 
ner, and that the administration would bring the proposal up the Hill. 49 
Most faculty put up cheerfully enough with these unfamiliar forms 
and enjoyed the discussions they engendered. Some of the old hands 
found that town meeting, by involving students in school-wide deci- 
sions, engaged teachers and housemothers more fully as well. Teachers 
who recall that they "came, did what they had to and went away 
again" during the Crane-Tucker years now stayed at school all day 
and into the evenings. 50 "More freedom for the students always means 
more work for the adults," Gordon kept telling the faculty. It was 
true, but to most of the adults, it seemed work worth doing. From the 
first, Gordon had "wanted a school where people would crack open 
any subject and talk about it." 51 Rather suddenly, students found it 
easier to take their grievances or their problems to a teacher. Faculty- 
room conversation spilled out into student-filled corridors; several new 
history and English and mathematics courses were hatched and fledged 
on the strength of student interest or teacher inspiration, or both. 

In a certain sense, however, a new common culture was being im- 
posed on Abbot girls. If Chapel was no longer required, "humanities" 
was. "Watch out! I may be teaching your daughter," Stephen Perrin 
warned in the new Abbot Forum, which rose live and kicking that 
fall from the ashes of the staid Bulletin. This bearded, gentle man 
posed every tenth grader his question: What does it mean to be 
human? and if he acknowledged that every person has her own answer, 
he was determined it should be well informed. Robert Ardrey on ver- 
tebrate social behavior, Freud, Fromm, Bruner, Erikson, novels and 
biographies about artists or scientists — these readings demanded effort 
of a new kind, for Perrin offered them as stimuli to introspection, not 
artifacts to analyze. Who am I? What do I learn from James Agee 
about myself? students were encouraged to ask. Write it down, write 
anything, it's you, it's O.K. The same in Sue Hosmer's philosophy 
classes, which were explorations of self and universe together. No texts 
at all were required in Peter Stapleton's and Paul Dyer's English classes. 
Dyer had put aside the medieval poetry that had stirred him in college. 
"Students themselves are the content of the course," he told the Forum. 
"All assignments are optional for all of us in one way or another," 
said Stapleton; "what is exciting is making the choices." 52 Dyer had 
students write their own "teacher comments" at the end of each term. 
A few parents and alumnae really were appalled. It was Donald 
Gordon who quoted Eric HofTer in his Installation speech to warn 
against excessive freedom: 


A fateful process is set in motion when the individual is released 
to the freedom of his own impotence and left to justify his 
existence by his own efforts. 53 

A year later it seemed to a small minority that Gordon was fostering 
the "fateful process" he had deplored. Nevertheless, experimentation 
bubbled on. "If you're going to show students that no one should fear 
to inquire," says Gordon, "teachers have to be secure enough to do it." 
Perrin still recalls that security with gratitude. "Don Gordon hired us 
as change-agents, and then left us to ourselves, defending us to the 
Trustees when he had to," he says. "It was a wonderful freedom; I 
had never felt so creative or worked so hard, or, I think, taught 
so well." 

Students ran the gamut in their opinions of these new courses. "My 
favorite," says one girl of Perrin's humanities class. She was a search- 
ing, deliberate reader, who gained "great insight into people" from the 
difficult texts. On the other hand— "I found him a hypocrite," who 
"couldn't stand to have me to disagree with him," writes another 
alumna, herself a sharp, contentious character; "While upholding free- 
dom, he was an absolute authoritarian in class." Stapleton's course had 
one Catholic girl amused and angry and distressed to tears all at once. 
Knowing she needed stays, her family had sent her to Abbot for a 
conservative academic education the year before, and her father was 
infuriated by the changes made without warning to parents in the fall 
of '69. "If Stapleton is going to be the student and you the teacher," 
he told her, "he should give over his salary to you." 54 

In Hall House lived Phyllis and David Maynard, the first of the 
series of young houseparents whom Gordon hired at salaries equiva- 
lent to those of the teaching faculty in his effort to revamp dormitory 
supervision. They were operating on much the same principle as did 
the most radical new teachers: this is your home; you are nearly adult. 
Let's work out together the common house rules which meet our 
common needs, and stick with them. From his position as the new 
Director of Studies, John Buckey, former teacher and admissions of- 
ficer at Quaker schools, former urban community organizer, listened 
as carefully for the personal concerns behind each student's academic 
plans as he did to each teacher who came in with a course proposal or 
a kid problem. To him, all educational decisions edged learner and 
teacher toward social commitments. Sterile talk of college require- 
ments and rank in class obscured the complex processes by which an 
individual makes her own unique sense of the larger culture and pre- 

3 8 4 

THE FINAL DECADE, 1963-1973 

57. Stephen Perrin with Jesse. 

$2. Coed football on the Sacred Circle. 



S3. Ceramics. 

386 THE FINAL DECADE, 1963-I973 

pares to take on adult responsibility within it. True, Alice Sweeney 
and Eleanor Tucker also had known how much more there is to aca- 
demic counseling than meets the eye, but Buckey had just arrived at 
Abbot from the bruising world outside, and this made him exciting; 
his own commitment to the civil rights and antiwar movement sensi- 
tized him to young people's anger and uncertainty. At first it seemed 
as though Buckey's warm-hearted activism would wonderfully flesh 
out Gordon's more abstract sense of the need for "an enlightened 
radicalism of method" by which a school could join in the best aspects 
of "the revolt of our times." 55 

Across the hall, Marion Finbury gave full time to college counsel- 
ing. To Gordon this was no luxury: where Seniors once had asked, 
"Can I make one of the Seven Sisters?" now they wondered openly, 
"What do I do with my life?" 56 It could take hours and weeks of talk 
to break the question into its component parts and deal with each. His 
faith in high gear, Gordon had found a person with no formal train- 
ing for this crucial job, a bright Jewish woman ready for work of her 
own. "Hired off the wall," she says. "I could have been a disaster. 
It was disaster year." But her qualifications were excellent: for 
years she had worked to improve public education in her own com- 
munity; she had been an Abbot parent, and a friendly critic of Abbot's 
college admissions process; she was ready to learn whatever needed 
learning; and she and her teen-aged children were still speaking to 
each other. 57 A fresh eye might make sense of the confusing new 
patterns of college admissions which were emerging as the colleges 
pried themselves open to women, minority applicants, and others who 
had once been beyond the pale. When she arrived in June 1969 to get 
going, Marion Finbury found that Gordon had locked the old college 
files; he sent her instead to a Harvard Admissions Institute and on a 
trip to West Coast colleges ("I hadn't been on a trip without my 
husband in fifteen years") and generally helped her begin that process 
by which Abbot teachers defined both their work and themselves. In 
September she "opened for business, shaking from top to toe." She 
began by talking with each Senior. She called up Radcliffe and told 
the Director of Admissions, "I want to come see you." "Whatever 
for?" asked the Director, who knew that in the past two decades only 
a handful of Abbot girls had applied for and entered Radcliffe. 58 
Marion Finbury would badger Radcliffe and Berkeley and every col- 
lege in between with such good humor and such intricate knowledge 
of her charges that she was hard to resist. She knenjo one candidate's 
450 S.A.T. scores said little of her, and she persuaded New College to 
take her on probation. In four years the young woman had simultane- 


ously finished college and served a term in the New Hampshire legis- 
lature; then she scored over 700 in the Law School Aptitude test and 
entered Law School. As her predecessors had done, Mrs. Finbury en- 
couraged students to consider an ever wider range of colleges. Four 
of seven applicants made Radcliffe that first year; many other gradu- 
ates were equally well placed in newly coeducational colleges or uni- 
versities never available to Abbot girls before. Like Gordon, however, 
Finbury felt that the process of college counseling was as important 
to a student's total education as the result. Again, Miss Sweeney and 
Miss Tucker would no doubt have agreed— but Marion Finbury was 
the first to be given the time to act on the conviction. 

The old birds were by no means sitting still while the new ones 
tried their wings: Abbot's swift movement in the first two Gordon 
years can only be understood in the light of veteran teachers' readiness 
for change and their willingness often to advance it, given the Prin- 
cipal's encouragement. The students who loved Abbot in 1969-70 are 
the ones who enjoyed the rigors of Carolyn Goodwin's calculus class 
as much as the heady confusions of Paul Dyer's "English" encounter 
group. "It didn't matter to me that Stapleton didn't make us read 
because suddenly I found I wanted to read all the optional history 
stuff, and I wrote about that in my English journal," says one such. 
Sandra Urie Thorpe, '70, found some changes disturbing, but she was 
absorbed in her urban education course field work and in special 
Spanish study with Dorothy Judd, work so advanced that she would 
be taking senior-level courses at Smith the following year. Georges 
Krivobok and Susan Clark were new birds, but their language classes 
were as demanding as any that Mile. Arosa or Mrs. DeGavre had 
taught. For spring term the three United States history teachers of- 
fered three different approaches to twentieth-century studies, and each 
Senior chose her poison. In the Revolution at Home and Abroad 
course, a tie-dyed girl fed up with intricate foreign-policy readings 
and Black Panther community-organization plans exclaimed, "But the 
Revolution is here! All we have to do is love each other!" "And read 
fifty pages a night," quipped a black girl, to whom knowledge was 
strength for the struggle. Still more options appeared as Phillips Acade- 
my courses in advanced studio art, religion, Asian history, German, 
and Italian were opened to Abbot students, with boys enrolling in 
similarly specialized Abbot courses such as Sex Education, Ceramics 
and Advanced Placement Spanish. All this was consistent with Donald 
Gordon's conviction that the key to growth is the opportunity to 
choose among a variety of endeavors. In his view the instilling of 
"correct" ambitions only ossifies the soul. He traces his own feeling 

388 THE FINAL DECADE, I963-I973 

back to his childhood and his father's tendency to identify great 
achievement with narrow, self-denying labor: " 'Work, by God, work 
your ass off!'"— this was the father's message to the son, as the son 
conveys it. But the freedom and the responsibility to choose one's 
work gives the young person "the chance to see that achievement can 
be pleasurable. ... I had enormous faith in the subliminal effect on 
students of a happy, diverse, vibrant community," says Gordon now. 59 
Abbot "seeks to be a house of many rooms," Gordon told his public 
in 197 1. 60 Indeed, the greatest strengths of the Gordon years lay in the 
extraordinary variety of academic and other choices that Abbot of- 
fered to any student ready to make them. Strong characters did beauti- 
fully from the start, and many others grew strong on this rich fare. 61 


All of Donald Gordon's first three years coincided with an era of stu- 
dent revolution at home and awful foreign policy failures abroad, 
but for Abbot, 1969-70 was the most tumultuous of all. Universities 
and secondary schools both public and private had seen their students 
march and rally and roar their protests over policies out of the White 
House and dictates from principals' offices. Every month, it seemed, 
another college president resigned. "We students are in revolt," wrote 
the Choate News early in 1969. "We are part of a worldwide rebellion 
of the young. We want a say . . . We will not be suppressed." 62 
America had seen youth subcultures before: the last three decades had 
had their Beats and their Young Socialists, who dressed to prove their 
empathy with the downtrodden, railed against the grey-flannel values 
of academia, and labored with migrant workers in the summertime; 
but the scale and the hostility of this new protest were unprece- 
dented. It was the clamor of a generation that saw history itself ca- 
reening out of control, a generation "by no means sure that it has a 
future," as George Wald has said. 63 Defensive adults saw only the re- 
pulsive hair styles, the obscene dress, and the frightening upsurge in 
teen-age drug use; the students demanded the right to decide their ap- 
pearance and devise their own escapes from the realities adults had 
prepared for them. 

Abbot was not doing badly, considering. There was a knot of drug- 
gies in one or two dormitories, and there were several boarding school 
counterparts of the ubiquitous teen-age runaway, but teachers kindly 
and firmly picked up the familiar hitch-hikers and brought them weep- 
ing back again; a few of them were running no further than John 


Buckey's house in West Andover anyway. The Maynards advised one 
troubled girl to clear out on her own for a while; another teacher who 
could find neither parents nor Principal to grant an abrupt permission 
took responsibility on herself for a girl who had secretly had an abor- 
tion and needed the comfort of her twin sister in Lowell. Gordon was 
furious when he found out (he could not know about the abortion)— 
but was this better or worse than in years past when (insist alumnae) 
at least two students ran away to parts unknown for days at a time, 
counting on friends to sign them in each night and in other ways 
assure gullible housemothers of their continued presence on campus? 

Principal and faculty did all they could to encourage constructive 
social action. Given minimal guidance, girls ran YWCA and "Wide 
Horizons" programs for underprivileged children all year long. With 
teachers and parents as drivers, over a hundred Abbot and Phillips stu- 
dents tutored immigrant children one to three afternoons a week dur- 
ing the spring at a special Title I school in the middle of the most de- 
crepit neighborhood in Lawrence. The New Abbot had its own 
"Golden Rule" dinners: Gordon worked with the Bondes, their 
kitchen staff, and a group of students to arrange a safe Fast for World 
Hunger and send proceeds to American Friends Service Committee 
hospitals in Vietnam. He joined teachers and students to launch first 
an Indochina "teach-in," then an Earth Day, during which classes were 
moved aside to make room for school-wide assemblies and small group 
discussions on these urgent world problems. Abbot girls joined with 
Andover High School students on several antiwar projects and con- 
ferences. Longing to shed the elitism that had characterized Andover 
Hill for over a century, they sought solidarity with those of their own 
generation everywhere. April 15, Income Tax day, was a milestone: 
teachers drove Abbot and Phillips and High School students to an 
early morning protest at the Northeast Internal Revenue Service cen- 
ter in west Andover; John Buckey delighted the protestors by film- 
ing on his home movie camera the FBI agents who stood on the roof 
of the IRS center filming the crowd below. (As he walked toward 
them, his camera grinding, they folded up their cameras and retreated.) 
That afternoon two busloads of Abbot and Phillips students and facul- 
ty joined 75,000 other citizens in a massive Boston Common rally 
against the War and the Black Panther trials. 

It was wearing for everyone, especially for the man at the helm who 
was having troubles enough fielding the distress of parents and alum- 
nae and reconciling some of his new appointees with Abbot's long-run 
needs and plans. Yet Donald Gordon felt more in tune with the up- 
surge than did Colonel Kemper up on the Hilltop. The sixties had 

390 THE FINAL DECADE, I963-I973 

allowed Gordon to "go public," as he puts it, after years of lonely 
worry over "the degradation of the environment and the stifling of 
political discussion" in the fifties. Abbot's relatively small size was a 
large advantage. Phillips Academy "has sometimes been guilty of 
treating boys impersonally," reported the Phillips Steering Commit- 
tee. 64 "Pessimism plagues P. A.," wrote Cynosure reporters. 65 "Even the 
best are bad," one "Thomas Doland" told a Look Magazine reporter 
who came hunting revolutionaries on Andover Hill that year. 66 Dol- 
and's Andover was an "active tool" of the government warmakers (he 
said), but the boy himself expressed most of his rebellion in the Phil- 
lips medium: eighty-one class cuts a year, jimmied in the records to 
look like nine, marijuana joints by the gross, and lots of good sex in 
the Sanctuary with Abbot girls for pleasure and defiance combined. 67 
At least, said Doland, there was the new Phillips Art Center, where 
creative work with other "alienated and artistic intellectuals" earned 
reluctant academic credit from the anti-art Establishment— and it was 
too bad about those Abbot girls, "really good chicks," basically, who 
"don't have the ability ... to be particularly creative themselves." Be- 
cause of this, and because so few Abbot girls are "into drugs and other 
liberating things (Doland continued, relishing his chance to play Nor- 
man Mailer), most of them have a very large sexual need which they 
transfer to the Andover student who is creative." 68 Chauvinist hog- 
wash, but startling nonetheless. Jane Baldwin wrote to Phil Allen 
when the Look article appeared and told him Donald Gordon should 
be released from his post. "Give the boy a little longer," said Allen. 69 
To fire a principal so recently hired would destroy whatever credi- 
bility Abbot still possessed. 70 The article was peppered with proven 
inaccuracies and therefore suspect; and after all, it was about Phillips, 
not Abbot. Like many teachers, Allen had noticed again and again 
that year how much happier and more sensible most Abbot students 
had seemed than the Hilltop students. Being female helped: girls did 
not have to be drafted, or to kill or die in Vietnam. 71 But Abbot as 
institution was also working hard to channel rebellion, to counsel girls 
with sexual and other needs both large and small, and to provide cre- 
ative outlets everywhere, even if "Doland" couldn't see them. 

It wasn't till the crisis in May that Gordon let on how battle-weary 
he was. On April 30 Nixon ordered American troops to invade Cam- 
bodia. On May 4 four innocent college students were shot and killed 
by panicky National Guardsmen while watching an antiwar demon- 
stration at Kent State University. In Andover all hell broke loose. It 
was O.K. for Abbot girls to set up a congressman-writing station in 
Draper Hall; but it was not O.K. for them to strike their classes in 


order to gather signatures on antiwar petitions (not yet, at least), and 
it was not at all O.K. for Paul Dyer to defy the Principal and take off 
for the Washington demonstrations with two Abbot students immedi- 
ately after Gordon, fearful for their safety, had denied the girls per- 
mission to go. Principal gathered faculty for a special meeting, intend- 
ing a rational discussion of Abbot's response to the crisis. Instead, an 
exhausted Donald Gordon picked up on a critical comment John 
Buckey made, talked himself into a rage on the subject of loyalty to 
him and to the school, and stomped out, leaving the faculty puzzled, 
stunned. Most felt they had gone out on many a limb for and with the 
Principal, and that any criticisms they'd made were meant to help. 
While Gordon drove to Plum Island to walk off his anger, Peter 
Stapleton led the group through the completion of a plan whereby 
"striking" students could pick up their assignments and leave for 
hometown antiwar work, or could join the seminars and action groups 
already organized at Phillips— for those Hilltop warmongers had laid 
extraordinarily clear-headed plans for "Strike Week." 72 Gordon re- 
turned home that evening to find a bunch of red roses waiting for 
him, a peace-offering from two concerned teachers. 

As it turned out, most students took to these opportunities peace- 
fully and responsibly, and only a few actually went home on strike. 
A brief town panic over "Communists" from Abbot and Phillips infil- 
trating the public schools died down when the agitators proved to be 
two peacable history teachers who were helping the Junior High 
Principal and some students set up a panel on American business in- 
terests in Indochina. (The Junior High group was eventually allowed 
to attend a packed meeting at the Abbot Chapel in which Philip Allen 
debated the subject with a gentle socialist-anarchist from Lawrence, 
the socialist-anarchist read some of his poems, and everyone agreed 
that both had won.) A massive drug bust on the Hill cleared out several 
of "Doland's" friends just before Abbot Commencement, though two 
would spring forth in each one's place the following year. 

Finally, painfully, Donald Gordon resolved some of his "loyalty" 
problems by releasing the teachers who had— in his view — taken his 
injunction to experiment and run away with it. Of the twelve new 
faculty members he had hired, half were released from their positions 
at the end of the 1969-70 school year, including the new Dean of Stu- 
dents and the new Director of Studies. The Maynards and Paul Dyer 
had been "in tune with the times, close to the kids," remembers Caro- 
lyn Johnston; by May they seemed too much so on both counts to 
Donald Gordon, who, with Johnston, had heard from one too many 
parents about the liberation of the Maynards' dormitory from legal 

392 THE FINAL DECADE, I963-I973 

constraints against marijuana. Such a slaughter had never happened 
before at Abbot, and it was a wrenching time, as much for Gordon as 
for all those colleagues who counted them friends. The parting of 
the ways with John Buckey was the most dramatic. Gordon ac- 
knowledged that many of their problems lay in their personal incom- 
patibility rather than in Buckey 's professional deficiencies; indeed, 
Don Gordon and Phil Allen together backed Buckey as he sought and 
found another excellent job. Through his warm interest in both stu- 
dents and colleagues, and his driving, often stubborn idealism, Buckey 
had expanded the influence that the Director of Studies traditionally 
commanded far beyond the boundaries Gordon envisioned for the 
position, and finally collided so often with the Principal that he knew 
before his boss fired him that he could not remain. Two alumnae re- 
member Mr. Gordon advising them to do one thing and sending them 
to check out the details with Mr. Buckey, only to be told to do some- 
thing quite different. Buckey was endlessly patient with students in 
trouble; Gordon wanted some of these same girls to go on to Abbot's 
official psychiatrist for expert counseling. At the juncture between dis- 
turbed individual and institution loom all the terrors that no institution 
can fathom, and those responsible become terribly anxious: a girl who 
had attempted suicide refused to return to Abbot's psychiatrist, and 
Buckey and Gordon argued over alternative psychiatrists till they 
were shouting at each other. Gordon thought Buckey wanted to sac- 
rifice the variety of teachers Abbot enjoyed in order to fill the place 
with flower children and political radicals. Buckey insists this is not 
true, but can understand the impasse: a principal needs real authority 
as well as pride. 

And Donald Gordon was nothing if not proud. His pride energized 
some of the new Abbot's most successful programs, but it also made 
him terribly vulnerable as a person and a leader. One way to cope 
with criticisms or human complications was to drown them in talk: 
a teacher or student who went to Gordon with a curricular proposal 
or a personal dilemma might get a marvelously responsive hearing— 
or she might do all the hearing herself while Gordon talked through 
most of the hour of his own problems and visions. 73 Gordon's loqua- 
ciousness certified the distance he had traveled from that "quiet," "ex- 
tremely shy" youngster whom his Phillips housemasters knew in 
1952. 74 Daring much, the Principal needed the reassurance of sympa- 
thetic listeners at every turn in his adventurous path. 

Some teachers and students found it hard to see Gordon at all, for 
he was away raising money and attending professional meetings more 
than any of his predecessors had been. 75 When at Abbot, it was natu- 

"make no little plans" 393 

ral for him to spend most of his time with the colleagues who ap- 
proved his ideas. His favorite conversor was Peter Stapleton, the lively 
and articulate young English teacher as short as his boss was tall, 
whom the Principal had named "administrative intern." Gordon had 
asked him to conduct a study of the headmaster's role in educational 
change as part of Stapleton's graduate work at Harvard, and had in- 
vited him to collaborate on a short book about it. As Phil Allen puts it, 
"Don needed to have somebody to throw his wild ideas at." The two 
spent hour upon hour assessing Abbot's progress and talking out plans; 
it was a process immensely helpful to Gordon, but it left many teach- 
ers feeling excluded— especially older ones accustomed to a voice in 
Abbot affairs: why was the Principal consulting this natty, witty 
young outsider and not consulting them? Gordon had hired him at 
full salary "to needle my faculty in a constructive way"; 76 Stapleton 
was only an intern observing when he visited their classes or talked 
with their students, but might not the hilarity they could hear behind 
the Principal's office door be a joke at their expense? 

Occasionally the answer may have been "yes." Drawing a self-con- 
scious circle around himself and his privy councillor as they drafted 
their account of the principal's job, Gordon enlarged on the lonely 
eminence a "headmaster" occupies, even the "new" headmaster who 
refuses to clothe himself in myth or "big Lie." 77 The modern leader 
"must truly be better than average human beings," honest, natural, re- 
sponsive to students and (most difficult) to his faculty, who, "being 
teachers, full of educational philosophy, often absolutist . . . know 
everything. And you are a grubby administrator." 78 When "brute 
fatigue" or the "endemic bitchiness" of the boarding school over- 
whelms and unanswered mail piles up (it takes time to write a book 
with your administrative intern) and parents rant on the sidelines, de- 
manding Utopia for their children, what is there left to do but laugh? 79 

Every principal has such problems and such protective egocen- 
tricities to some degree. What was surprising (and often deeply ap- 
pealing) about Donald Gordon was his way of wearing them all on his 
sleeve— at least within Abbot's boundaries. (Out on the hustings, the 
image of serenity and control held up pretty well.) This openness was 
not just a personal need; it was also part of a conscious, candid effort 
to develop educational policy. An example: many male principals of 
all-girl or coeducational schools would hesitate to reveal the complex 
sources of their desire to understand and work with women and girls. 
Gordon says he was influenced most of all by his strong-minded and 
sensitive British mother, to whom "a gentleman was a gentle man." 
Her— and his— ideal man embodied "the whole world of sensitivities and 

394 THE FINAL DECADE, I963-I973 

sensibility that is excluded from the American archetype." 80 Gordon is 
certain that such a vision, if openly lived and articulated, can cross 
sexist boundaries, and inspire young women as well as young men. 
One highly successful Abbot principal had been equally candid about 
this issue a century earlier: the Reverend Joseph Bittinger, who took 
Abbot on for the year 1848-49, when Asa Farwell went to Europe. 
By his own account, Bittinger personified the alliance between the 
nineteenth century woman and the male minister: 

I cannot help thinking that (in the years when Abbot was run 
by clergymen) ministers partook of the nature of both man and 
woman. I was too much of a woman to be a man, and not fair and 
gentle enough to be a woman. I was surprised at being called to the 
head of this school . . . but I am not ashamed that I was accounted 
worthy to keep a woman's school in Massachusetts. Whatever I 
taught others, I learned much during that year. . . . Every man 
and woman must make himself or herself; the working power 
is not in the institution. The schoolmaster . . . hews a living stone 
which has an influence on himself. 81 

Bittinger was mildly apologetic, but by the 1970's no apologies were 
needed. Like Bittinger, Gordon daily demonstrated the range of cre- 
ative possibilities open to all who refuse to be limited by cultural 
stereotypes of male and female. 

Some of Gordon's difficulties lay in the size of the job he had taken 
on, and the competing demands of his family. He had taken the Abbot 
principalship at an age when most married men have seen their chil- 
dren through the years of highest demand on parents; but Gordon had 
married in his late twenties, and his son and daughter were still babies. 
Pulled one way by his responsibilities as Principal, another by his 
equally serious responsibilities as father, he found it terribly hard to live 
up to Trustees' and parents' images of the serene "family man" and 
model for young people, managing everything beautifully, every day. 

Three Good Years 

Gordon certainly did try, however, and in a great many ways he 
succeeded, especially as he took to heart the lessons of his first two 
years and settled down to see Abbot through its final three. "If the 
third year isn't better, I'll hang it up," Gordon remembers thinking; but 
it was better, partly because he made it so. "We came gently down 
from what was actually a period of excess," says Gordon now. Having 


dominated the scene, he retreated a bit. Having distrusted many teach- 
ers, he began delegating his authority to some of them; if he still con- 
sidered "dreaming"— the establishment of "sustaining goals"— the head- 
master's province, he no longer disdained plans already made as 
"garbage" to "be handed over to a subordinate" while he went on with 
his "creative wishing." These tongue-in-cheek terms with which he and 
Stapleton filled their book would become anachronisms as he brought 
closer together in his mind the stuff of dreams and the everyday life of 
the school. At his best he functioned as a coordinator rather than the 
heroic leader he seems at first to have tried to be, and in doing so, he 
fostered the communal enterprise he had wanted so much all along. 
In the first two years Gordon had possessed the place; during most of 
the last three, Abbot belonged to itself. 

First came appointments of new people to fill the places of those 
who were leaving. Gordon was determined not to be so trusting of 
appearances— Paul Dyer had come to his Abbot interviews in a Brooks 
Brothers herringbone suit, which he never wore again— and instead to 
look for experience. The best place to find this was among the old 
hands inside Abbot. Carolyn Goodwin already knew academic sched- 
uling and student placement from her work as chairman of the Math- 
ematics Department. She had been twenty-three years at Abbot, a 
topnotch corridor teacher in the old days and member of dozens of 
committees in the new days. Whether or not she agreed with them, 
students admired her as "disciplined, intelligent" and infallibly honest, 
stern when she must be where Gordon was "too soft." 82 With some 
difficulty, Gordon persuaded her to become Director of Studies for a 
one-year trial. A few Trustees were surprised at the choice. "Goodie" 
was so quiet that they had hardly known her. They were more 
familiar with Carolyn Johnston as a former Associate Dean, an ex- 
perienced counselor and a firm but compassionate trouble-shooter who 
had picked up the pieces for years when a dormitory crisis or a miser- 
able student had proved too complex for one lone Dean of Students 
to handle. Now Mrs. Johnston became Dean in her own right, and 
immediately set to work devising a system of weekly guidance for 
houseparents and resident advisers, and an advisory Dorm Council to 
keep student representatives in touch with school-wide problems. The 
two women were to prove themselves equal to almost any challenge 
their boss was to hand them; perhaps more important still, they pa- 
tiently took care of the day-to-day details which, from his altitude, he 
could not even know existed. In time, students who spoke of "the ad- 
ministration," (whether in anger or approval) as often meant Good- 
win-Johnston as they meant Gordon, for Gordon "trusted us, let us 


THE FINAL DECADE, 1963-1973 

$4. The deans: Carolyn Johnston and Carolyn Goodwin. 

help," "supported us when we did need support, and left us complete- 
ly alone," as Carolyn Johnston says. "Don was not a good adminis- 
trator," says one Trustee, summing up the views of several people who 
worked closely with Gordon, "but he was wise enough finally to find 
people who were." 

The two Carolyns completed Abbot's administrative team, joining 
Dick Griggs, Dick Sheahan, and Faith Howland Kaiser, Admissions 
Director, all of whom had made it through 1969-70 more or less un- 
scathed. Four of the five were middle-aged and tough. Sheahan was 
thoroughly Republican to boot, with a talent for turning every ideo- 
logical argument into a friendly discussion, an invaluable gift in this 
age of acrimony. Faith, just twenty-six years old, had thrown herself 
with the ardor of the young into the Gordon camp when distressed 
faculty took sides in the Buckey-Gordon battle the year before, but 
she and her still younger assistant, Priscilla Peterson, were so able and 
so excited by the success they were having in recruiting new applicants 
that they made time to talk comfortably (and endlessly) with Gordon 
and work hard too. From her special perspective, Faith added her keen 
sense of student morale, and an enthusiasm for Abbot's future that 
kindled warmth within the entire adminstrative team. 

It helped that the battering political events outside gradually re- 


ceded over Abbot's last years; once the Vietnam War was hopeless, 
once Nixon had been proven immoral if not criminal, there was less to 
fight about everywhere. If there was just as much as ever to do in the 
cause of social justice, well, Abbot had its long tradition of charitable 
deeds to back the organizational techniques that students and teachers 
developed together during that best and worst of years, 1 969-7 o, 83 and 
the work went on, strongly supported by the administration. By June 
of 1972 a series of panty raids (three by Phillips boys, one by Abbot 
girls) was the best Andover Hill could produce in the way of rebel- 
lion. Donald Gordon and his faculty could concentrate on extending 
the most promising reforms and on keeping Abbot's house in order. 

This last task was challenge enough by itself. By the time Carolyn 
Johnston had run two dorm searches for drugs and liquor, had spent 
half one night tracking down a girl who had run naked from a Phillips 
dorm, and taken care of several unhappy students at her home for a 
few days, she began "to wish we still had tie shoes for them to rebel 
against. It was a lot simpler, a lot simpler!" For every ten alumnae 
who now rejoice that 1970 saw the last of the "distorted social life" 
and the "Capezzio shoes stereotype" of the "old Abbot" girl, there is 
at least one who feels that she "wasn't ready for all the responsibility." 
"We wanted all that freedom, but once we had it we didn't know 
what to do with it," writes a '71 alumna. 84 

Even noble impulses sowed trouble. One girl who went to work at a 
half-way house for mental patients forgot that she was never to give 
patients her last name or her address; a large, pathetic man known to 
have beaten up several girl friends told her he must have both so he 
could reach her when he felt like slashing his wrists— and was shortly 
prowling around her Abbot dormitory looking for her. The same year 
a housemother became ill and had to leave. The students on her cor- 
ridor brought a self-proctoring proposal to Carolyn Johnston, and 
after much discussion and refinement of the plan, she and Gordon de- 
cided they could trust one Senior to be acting counselor for the cor- 
ridor. The Senior kept all in order: she knew exactly in which Phillips 
dormitory each vagrant girl could be found if she must be reached by 
telephone. The girls signaled an end to the experiment themselves 
when one took off on a terrifying LSD trip and the rest brought her 
down to Carolyn Johnston for help. Because of such incidents, Mrs. 
Johnston tightened up on dormitory supervision a little more each 
year. It meant "a lot of rule-making in the summer, when town 
meeting wasn't around," says a '73 graduate with resentment. Cyno- 
sure complained, but the rules stood. Most students accepted them, 
administered as they were by the generous and responsible young 

398 THE FINAL DECADE, I963-I973 

houseparents (six couples in all) and other resident advisers whom 
Don Gordon managed to find. So long as all went well enough, girls 
tended to focus affection on them and on special faculty friends, and 
thought of Mrs. Johnston as School Disciplinarian until they needed 
her badly. "Then you went to her," writes one former student leader, 
"and you could never lie to her." Another alumna who habitually 
went from caper to agonizing problem and back again writes of her, 
"I still to this day believe that Mrs. Johnston had eyes on the back of 
her head!" 85 It was just as well, given the job a boarding school must 
do in the sixties and seventies. The outward decorum girls maintained 
in Miss Bailey's and Miss Hearsey's day evaporated as both adolescent 
and adult dug down to find the springs of authority and found them 
dispersed under and over the land. They were there— in adult experi- 
ence and capacity to help, in perceived communal needs — but they had 
lost their magical qualities; they could no longer be taken for granted. 
Teachers would occasionally wonder whether boarding schools could 
be made viable in these difficult times. 

Yet boarding schools have enormous advantages, and Abbot's ad- 
ministrative team was determined to make the best of them through 
imaginative scheduling, through expansion of those offerings in the 
creative and dramatic arts which can blossom in ample evening and 
weekend time, and through the conscious assembling of an ever more 
varied community. Abbot drew an average of 10 percent more ap- 
plicants each year from 1969 on, many of them girls who said they 
wouldn't have dreamed of applying to Abbot in the old days. 86 Eliza- 
beth Marshall Thomas brought her daughter Stephanie to visit, and 
Stephanie happily enrolled in 1971 for a four-year stay. Expanded class 
coordination with Phillips was a major attraction, of course: each year 
Abbot could offer more academic variety as the two schools' arts and 
modern language departments opened all courses to students from 
either one, and upper level electives in science, theatre, music, English, 
and history drew students from up and down the Hill. Enrollment had 
expanded by 1972-73 to 330 to take full advantage of Abbot's plant 
and people, "Antoinette Hall House," the old Infirmary, having been 
opened for boarders in 1969 and Chapin House in 1970. The roster 
eventually included 88 day students, who seem to have felt more wel- 
come than at any time since the McKeen sisters arrived to create a 
"school-home" at Abbot. 87 Boarders hosted them in the dormitories, 
and the school completed the process (well begun in the Crane-Tucker 
years) of opening all meals and evening activities to them. "The 
crumby little room across from the library" (as a '55 graduate de- 
scribes it) was still headquarters, but it no longer "felt like second 



$$. All-girls' soccer, Shirley Ritchie presiding. 

$6. Deborah and Richard Wine, houseparents. 

400 THE FINAL DECADE, I963-I973 

steerage on the Titanic," because there were so many other places to 
go. Perhaps most important, Treasurer J. K. Dow and Richard Griggs 
sprung loose twice as much money for scholarships as Abbot had 
made available in the years before 1968: $80-95,000 each year after 
1969, to support 13 percent of the student body. Eight black students 
were on full scholarship. Teachers' salaries, too, were raised until they 
stood once again above the median for girls' schools by 1970-71— 
though this was not enough for a new breed of young teacher (gen- 
erally male) who refused to speak softly on the subject, and success- 
fully pushed the administration if not to higher salaries then to a more 
rational set of criteria by which to award them. 

All this money had to come from somewhere. Griggs and Dow 
were ready by early 1970 with a plan to borrow enough from the 
endowment to cover the $311,000 deficit that had accumulated from 
1966 to 1969, and to use New Abbot Fund monies to finance future 
capital improvements, especially those which would generate larger 
tuition income. The plan seemed all the more necessary as the 1969-70 
deficit approached $362,ooo. 88 Burton Flagg would have been horri- 
fied, but that good old man was dying in a nursing home. At first 
Gardner Sutton objected. "I'm from Boston," he said, "and here we 
don't believe in spending money we don't have." "Well, I'm from 
Virginia," answered Trustee Guerin Todd, a Washington lawyer, "and 
down there we spend money we don't have all the time." "Keynesian 
economics," Todd dubbed Abbot's system of planned deficits. 89 The 
idea seemed reasonable. The fund drive was starting out strong under 
Todd's and Sheahan's leadership; it looked as though alumnae would 
endorse the New Abbot after all. For this, enormous credit was due 
Jane Sullivan, '31, Alumnae Secretary, who had spent nearly half her 
life at Abbot and was thus able to dispel much alumnae panic over 
passing crises during the Gordon Years. "SRW," '28, wrote to Forum 
Editor Sheahan, "to share with you my tremendous excitement and 
enthusiasm over what I learned about Abbot through the Forum" \ 
"EBS," '66, said, "All I can say is 'wow!!'" 90 As time went on, the 
Trustees grew more discouraged. "So many of the older alumnae saw 
the Gordon era as the end of Abbot Academy" and simply refused to 
give, says Caroline Rogers. "I found this hard to understand, because I 
was enthusiastic about everything Abbot was doing." In the end, Mrs. 
Rogers' enthusiasm proved crucial: over half of the $1,175,000 that 
Abbot finally raised came from her family or from foundations she 
knew well or helped to manage. Important operational funds were 
donated by two foundations whose directors liked the looks of the 
New Abbot; $75,000 for faculty support from the Mellon Foundation 

"make no little plans" 401 

over three years, and $87,500 for scholarships through 1976 from the 
Independence Foundation. 

Meanwhile, Abbot's budgeteers were sharpening their pencils. Prod- 
ded by Jane Baldwin, they helped the Investment Committee find new 
management for investment funds, and endowment income crept up. 
They went after unpaid tuition bills to bring in thousands extra each 
year. They scrutinized the Principal's salary budget, and ran quiet 
checks on teacher-workload to make certain new positions were 
needed. Their intent was not to push Abbot teachers back to the 
twenty-five class-hours-per-week that had been common in earlier 
days, but to discover— as they did in the spring of '72— that one teacher 
had just five hours of scheduled teaching each week, and to tighten 
up on job descriptions. Through higher enrollments and tuition (raised 
to $4,100 for the 1971-72 school year, which brought Abbot just 
above the median relative to its major competitors), by careful plan- 
ning, and by cheerful resistance to Gordon's more expensive inspira- 
tions, the Trustees and administration pulled Abbot's annual deficit 
down toward zero. 91 It was just $6,800 in the last year, 1972-73. 

The managers also took a look at outdated assets, and cast sentiment 
aside to realize as much money as possible for the current operation. 
No Organ Fund was needed now that Abbot's mechanical organ had 
been retired. Nor did the Trustees think that those hopeful donors 
who had put the first and last $7,000 toward a Chair of Literature in 
memory of Phebe McKeen would turn in their graves if the $103,236 
that had accumulated in the savings bank were used to endow salary 
raises for living teachers. The most valuable anachronism was the 
John-Esther Gallery collection, which no one seemed to want to ex- 
hibit any more even if there had been time to do so between the lively 
exhibitions of student, faculty, and professional work set up each 
month or so by curator Stephanie Perrin. Stephanie herself brought to 
the Trustees a proposal to sell the paintings rather than allow them to 
deteriorate in the attic of Draper Hall. J. K. Dow and Richard Shea- 
han knew the paintings must be worth more than the $20,000 that a 
dealer was willing to offer for the collection as a whole; several auc- 
tions by Parke-Bernet realized $98,000 and proved them right. George 
Innes' "A June Day" brought $39,000 of the sum alone. The rest of 
the Trustees were as pleased as Dow and Sheahan. The little bonanza 
was a symbol of the Board's success in working with Abbot's faculty 
to put money to work prudently for present needs. 

"Our job as administrators was to clear away the tactical rubbish so 
that teachers could get on with teaching," says Donald Gordon. The 

402 THE FINAL DECADE, I963-I973 

teaching staff from 1970-73 was as various as the student body. Gordon 
continued to seek teachers from outside the prep-school-Ivy League 
nexus— young people, for the most part, who could both accept Ab- 
bot's salary scale and further the new Abbot's values. He did not have 
far to look. In contrast to the Crane years, eager young teachers were 
a glut on the market: 348 teachers applied for ten openings in 1970-71, 
at least a third of these serious, competent candidates. Whereas twenty- 
eight of thirty-three teachers had received their training in women's 
colleges or abroad in i960, only fifteen of the forty 1972-73 faculty 
had done so. A dozen of the latter had completed undergraduate or 
graduate work at state universities, compared with two in i960. One 
third were men, and though the average age of the group as a whole 
dropped from forty-four to twenty-eight in the five Gordon years, 
there were teachers scattered in every age bracket. Carolyn Goodwin 
encouraged every student to try out a range of teachers. After 1970 
ninth graders took one trimester of English with each of two old 
hands as well as one with Peter Stapleton. Upperclasswomen could 
choose as required courses Black Literature, The Comic Vision, Epic 
Poetry, and The American Dream, or several English electives, such as 
Humanities III, Irish Studies, Southern Gothic: Novelists of the Gro- 
tesque, or The Expatriates: Paris of the 20's, as well as a host of 
specialized English courses at Phillips Academy. They had their choice 
of four different year-long United States history courses, including a 
full-blown American studies course with as many novels to read and 
paintings to study as political tracts to analyze. A new mathematics 
teacher set up an individualized contract-learning course which he 
described in faculty meeting in detail so that others might adapt its 
most successful features to their own work. The Mathematics Depart- 
ment hooked into a Cambridge computer and offered one term of 
computer study for fourth-level mathematics students. But Abbot's 
laboratory science courses remained limited to one year each of chem- 
istry, physics, and biology. "I found when I got to college that I'd had 
lady-like science; other students in the pre-med courses were much 
better trained," says one alumna; another no,w in nursing agrees. Yet 
others feel their basic preparation was excellent. In biology, "It de- 
pended on what teacher you had," explains one, who says that she was 
crazy about her teacher, "even though I knew more biology than he 
did," because he taught her all about white-water canoeing. There was 
no doubt that quality was more uneven than it had been in the past; 
there was so much going on that class preparation sometimes went by 
the board. A Crane appointee puts it in extreme terms: "Hardly any- 
one had any real commitment to the school as an academic institu- 


tion." She says, "Tradition was a dirty word." One of the most able 
eleventh graders on Andover Hill (class of '73) drew four teachers 
out of five who were simply dull. History was worst. "The teacher 
was bored. We were bored. We were all bored. We were very bored. 
Oh dear." Asked why she didn't leave, she describes all the rest of 
Abbot with warmth: student and faculty friends, basketball Abbot 
style ("very relaxed, super fun"), helping to organize a Thanksgiving 
Vespers that could encompass every faith and every agnostic yearn- 
ing, gathering greens by the Shawsheen River to deck Davis Hall for 
Christmas Vespers, and working very hard on stage crew for main- 
stage productions at Phillips. It was an interesting switch from Eliza- 
beth Marshall's day when it was Abbot's academic work that kept the 
blood moving even if nothing else did. As a Senior, this '73 graduate 
took four of her five courses on the top of the Hill, including a superb 
Advanced Placement Biology course. 

"We lost some of our professionalism," says one long-time teacher— 
who also admits to having enjoyed her rest from the pressure of aca- 
demic work she had felt in the Crane-Tucker years. "It's a shame," 
says another. "We didn't need to hire any of those friendly incompe- 
tents to change the school. Luckily most students knew what they 
needed, and flocked to the more demanding teachers wherever there 
was a choice— and usually there was." Pressure or no pressure, many 
teachers worked terribly hard: they created for another bright, quest- 
ing girl an experience wholly different from the one Abbot gave to 
her '73 friend above. "Jean St. Pierre was the best writing teacher I've 
ever had," says this '72 alumna, speaking for many, "an emotive, per- 
ceptive, demanding teacher, really excited about her subject." She also 
"learned tremendously" from her history class. She cut her teeth on 
the Abbot computer and then climbed the Hill to join the Phillips 
computer "club," even though she was denied access to most Phillips 
mathematics courses. "Academically, it was an incredible treat for me. 
I came from a high school where one did not discuss ideas or reading, 
[and] I was beginning to abandon intellectual interests." "Almost for- 
got Mr. Gordon," her letter goes on. "I liked and respected him. He 
was very accessible. Three of us went to his house once a week one 
winter to listen to him talk about economics— unstructured, but fasci- 
nating." Her friend of '73 did forget Mr. Gordon, because "he was 
hardly ever around." "He was busy raising money; he didn't know my 
name. I kept having to check out plans with him because he was head, 
but in terms of running the school, he didn't seem to have any say 
whatsoever," a judgment little different from that of several teachers, 
one of whom liked Gordon very much but says, simply, that "the 

4 o 4 

THE FINAL DECADE, 1963-1973 

faculty was pulling on its own." The '73 student goes on: "My last 
spring there was this shakedown in Hall House which, in terms of 
civil liberties, seemed a little appalling. The morning after, Mr. Gordon 
was to speak in assembly so I had a pen and pad out, ready to write 
down how he justified it, or whatever. But as usual, he talked and 
talked — for an hour and ten minutes— and didn't say anything." There 
is no such thing as a moderate student opinion of Abbot's last Prin- 
cipal. Still, it was a sign of Abbot's good health that students could 
joke about the one characteristic on which everyone agreed: his over- 
done eloquence. 

^ AND I HAVE JOST orSE fi\o*£ 
3K\£P Point I'd uiKG To lOnftKe 


57. Talk and Laughter, Cynosure, 1$ October 1971. 


The few who really got to know Donald Gordon most appreciated 
him. A great deal of his attention went to the girls who participated in 
the two-year Indian exchange program, an experience that profoundly 
affected them and opened a shutter on the outside-Abbot world for 
many more. Abbot principals from Miss McKeen through Miss Hear- 
sey had looked toward Europe; Gordon, fascinated with the American 
West, faced the old Academy toward its own continent. He joined 
efforts that several Eastern schools were making to include native 
Americans and Indian studies in their schools and curricula through an 
Intercultural Exchange Program, which sent six Abbot girls to the 
Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota during March and brought Da- 
kota (Sioux) Indian girls (as well as one "white" girl living on the 
Reservation) to the Eastern schools for three weeks in April. 92 Abbot 
and Concord academies were the first schools to arrange the month 
at Rosebud. The Abbot pioneers prepared for their adventure through 
a week-long seminar with Gordon on Dakota culture, and flew west 
at the begnning of March, where they were met, introduced to the 
principals of the mission high school and public school to which they 
would go, and brought to the Reservation families who had agreed to 
take them on. 

"One more won't matter," Mr. and Mrs. Black Spotted Horse had 
said to the Rosebud coordinator when he asked for host families; they 
had fifteen children already, in a house about the size of three Draper 
Hall student rooms. "Sam" Howland shared a bed with five of the 
children, learned to breakfast on potato-and-meat soup, and to enjoy 
the Sunday family feasts and the endless driving around in cars which 
many Dakota considered the only worthwhile winter entertainment. 
No two girls had the same experience; one lived on a farm with a white 
family, and two others spent week nights in a barracks dormitory with 
fifty Dakota girls from the poorest part of the Reservation. Some 
found high school deadening (one was seated by her teacher and made 
to write "I will not be late for school" two hundred times), while 
others found teachers extraordinarily friendly, willing to include and 
help them. Romantic stereotypes of Plains Indian life disintegrated be- 
fore the whisky bottles in the grass, the listlessness of unemployed 
men, and the almost universal preference for indoor life ("It was hard 
to go on a walk because everyone started worrying that you were up- 
set," said one girl), but every Abbot girl brought back some powerful 
images: the slower pace of life, the sere beauty of the rolling winter 
plains, the wind, their dear, close host-families, and, most of all, the 
sense of having managed well within an unfamiliar American sub- 
culture. 93 

406 THE FINAL DECADE, I963-I973 

Abbot was not entirely prepared for the Dakota girls who came 
East. It was not just that Don Gordon was leaving most of the details 
to a few and failing to consult others 94 (the Admissions officers were 
never brought in at all, though they knew best where space for beds 
and a friendly reception could be found). It was also that the Rosebud 
schools had given their girls no clear sense of what to expect or how 
they should keep up with courses at home. The Dakota girls came to 
Abbot classes expecting to be as bored as they were by many classes 
back at Rosebud, and therefore, with a few exceptions, they were. 
They had never done any serious homework, so they quickly fell be- 
hind; several simply stopped going to class at all. Even those who did 
attend, especially the full-blooded Indian girls who rarely spoke or 
smiled, baffled students and teachers. Here they were in the land of 
let-it-all-hang-out; the intense reserve by which these girls hid their 
homesickness and protected their dignity was entirely unfamiliar to 
Abbot in the seventies. After a week, Carolyn Goodwin gathered them 
and their student hosts together, and with them sketched out a plan 
for their stay which combined modified class schedules with trips to 
the ocean, to Lexington and Boston, to a conference of Indians staying 
at Northfield and Concord academies. Nothing worked perfectly, but 
by the time the girls had to leave, they all wanted to come back again, 
and several Abbot teachers and students wished they could. 95 

There were ten black students now, most of whom had prepared (or 
been ill prepared) in ghetto junior high schools and nearly all of whom 
were highly conscious of the revolutionary responsibilities of black 
youth. The Dakota visitors were startled by the vehemence with 
which several of these girls took them aside into special caucus and 
pleaded solidarity with Third World causes. It was not the only such 
instance. A few of the more bitter black students felt no blacks could 
survive unless all stood together against the school; two issued threats 
to the rest: join us or get beaten up. Abbot gave them space for an 
Afro-American center, Mrs. Johnston allowed them special late sign- 
ins when they attended Afro-American dances at other schools, a very 
few got away with some serious rulebreaking— "if a white girl did that 
she'd be kicked out," says a white alumna— but the angriest stayed that 
way. A part-time adviser, a black graduate student from Tufts, only 
exacerbated the situation, adding her own threats to those others had 
made, insisting that Abbot and all white America was hopelessly racist, 
and advising the black girls finally to walk out after Thanksgiving of 
1972 and not come back. At that point Gordon called on Beth Chand- 
ler Warren, '55, whose husband Ted had joined the Abbot History 
Department that September. She brought the girls together and told 



$8. Growing up black at Abbot, 1970. 

408 THE FINAL DECADE, I 9 6 3 - I 9 7 3 

them, "Yes, Abbot's racist, American society is racist, so what else is 
new? . . . You think you're being ripped off? Well, then, you get in 
there and rip off all the academic power you can get from this school. 
Learn everything you can and get yourselves ready to change things." 96 
Throughout the Gordon years there had been at least one or two 
extraordinarily serene and able black students at Abbot each year; 
almost imperceptibly, leadership of the 1972-73 group of blacks passed 
over to them, and things rocked back into their usual uneasy balance 
between the black girls' loyalty to each other and their will to prosper 
as individuals within a multicolored society. 

u No risks, no progress," says one of the veteran Abbot teachers. 
Abbot's struggle to come to grips with the realities of the sixties and 
seventies was bound to include failures and awful mistakes, as well as 
successes even beyond Donald Gordon's dreams. The overwhelming 
majority of alumnae from these years say they would never have 
traded their Abbot experience— take it all in all— for anything more 
sane, more dull. Once the roller-coaster had been taken aside for re- 
pairs in 1970, it never came close to being derailed. In fact, by 1972, 
when Phillips Academy took one last look at Abbot and found the 
bride worthy, she was riding along smooth track well out of Fun City, 
going places on her own. 

Endings and Beginnings 

The union of Abbot and Phillips Academy 

has been achieved, and in a fashion 

that will not impoverish either school 

but enrich both. 

Abbot Trustees' Minutes, September 20, 1972 

Phillips Academy ATE Abbot 
Abbot alumna to Phillips student, Class of '78 

There remains the merger story to tell. Given Abbot's long life, it is a 
brief tale, but an intense one, with some surprising turns. Much of it 
was hidden from students at the time, some of it from faculty as well. 
"You couldn't let on what you were doing till you were pretty sure it 
would work out," explains Phil Allen. The school had work of its own 
to do that must not be weakened by hopes or fears concerning the 
rest of Andover Hill. 

'To the Fern Sems of Andover; so near and yet so far!" 

Thus did Phillips' finest toast their Abbot sisters whenever longing 
coincided with a celebratory mood. The salute rang out on the Phillips 
Seniors' class sleigh ride of 1883; 1 it encapsulates a paradox not finally 
resolved until 1973, when Abbot and Phillips became one school under 
the name of Phillips Academy. The merger was prefigured by his- 
torical ties between the two academies, and powered by present 
urgencies in which both Abbot and Phillips saw far more opportunity 
than danger. 

Long had Abbot considered its mission complementary to that of 
Phillips. "What the Trustees of Phillips Academy would provide for 
young men, we would provide for young ladies" the Abbot Trustees 
wrote to Mary Lyon in 1834. 2 Though the disparity between the two 
academies in numbers and economic power would only increase, the 
idea of their complementarity persisted. Abbot's and Phillips' institu- 


tional lives overlapped throughout the nineteenth century: their an- 
cestry in the Sarah Abbot -Samuel Phillips family connection, their 
board membership, their formal social life, their visiting lecturers and 
part-time teachers, their constituencies, and their supporters within the 
town of Andover— all were shared to a greater or lesser extent. Though 
Abbot let the early experiments in regular academic cooperation lapse 
and went the way of other post-bellum boarding schools in creating a 
thoroughly single-sex community, social interchange flourished, as we 
have seen. The Phillips Class of 1872 held a reunion feast in the Smith 
Hall dining room, to the delight of Harriet Chapell and her friends. 3 
Phillips came down to cheer the Abbot baseball games with such en- 
thusiasm that Miss McKeen wondered whether she had been wise to 
allow her young ladies to play baseball at all. 4 One institution, the 
Ladies Benevolent Society of Phillips Academy, aptly foreshadowed 
the Phillips-Abbot merger: under a charter drawn with the help of 
several Phillips Trustees, Abbot's real interests were continually ad- 
vanced. The Society was founded in 1831 by Academy and Theologi- 
cal Seminary wives and daughters, but most of them were also Abbot 
parents, students, or alumnae. It met regularly in the Abbot Chapel 
throughout its first few decades. By the 1970's the Society would stand 
as the oldest woman's club in the United States, yet another Abbot- 
Phillips connection so ancient that it was simply taken for granted. 

The twentieth century witnessed a cooling of the friendship on an 
official level. In 191 2 Abbot students advocated closer ties: Phillips' 
Charles Forbes had brought greetings from "Abbot's big brother" to 
Bertha Bailey at her Inaugural, and the Courant Editors were slightly 
miffed; "Let us suggest that, in the future, something be done to make 
the family get together," they wrote. 5 But 191 2 also marked the year 
Miss Bailey began cutting what lines there were up and down Andover 
Hill. Merger seemed so far from reality by 1949 that Marguerite 
Hearsey felt free to joke about a coeducational Utopia when she intro- 
duced Headmaster John Kemper to the Boston Abbot Club. "There's 
an idea for us, Mr. Kemper. Think of all the problems it would solve! 
Well, who knows?" 

When Abbot's last rules have been lifted 

And no freedom is longer denied: 
When the older critics have left us 

And the wildest new theories been tried . . . 
We shall learn and the answer seems simple 

That altho' we have always been two 
We'd better henceforth combine forces 

And be one without further ado. 6 


Joking aside, the idea of coeducation would not go away. We have 
seen how extracurricular contacts between the schools gradually 
widened and deepened through the next two decades, how the privet 
hedge lost its symbolic loading, how the bushes that had long held 
illicit notes or sheltered illicit lovers became just bushes again. Students 
engineered many of the changes themselves, a not surprising develop- 
ment when one considers that in the late 1960's 94 percent of students 
in northeastern single-sex secondary schools wished for coeducation. 7 
A Social Union in the basement of Cochran Chapel near the Abbot- 
Phillips border, a co-ed Senior ski weekend, coeducation of the Phillips 
Summer Session, Abbot participation in the Andover-Exeter Washing- 
ton Intern Program and School Year Abroad— all were responses to 
students' initiatives or applicants' desire for coeducational programs. 
Separate corporate identities still kept the two schools "so near and 
yet so far," but by the end of the sixties the "far" distance had radical- 
ly diminished, and many on Andover Hill had begun to wonder 
whether it need exist at all. 

• "It's a coed world" 8 

Just as the times favored women's education in the 1820's when Abbot 
began, so now they favored coeducation as never before. Single-sex 
fortresses were falling fast: In 1968 alone 53 colleges and universities 
(35 of them women's colleges) either became coeducational or began 
coordinate instruction. With only 33 men enrolled in its first year of 
coeducation, Bennington's applications rose 56 percent. Ivy League 
colleges gearing up for coeducation saw their applications bottom out 
and begin to rise, while the number applying to all-male Princeton 
continued to dwindle. (Princeton soon changed its plans.) Popular 
articles spoke of "cracking the cloister" 9 and likened the remaining 
hold-outs to prisons. 10 Educators wrote that the young no longer 
needed a moratorium from worldly concerns. Professors discovered 
that females could think after all, and deans rang new changes on the 
nineteenth-century theme of women's civilizing influence on young 
men. In the ten years from 1962 to 1972, half of all women's colleges 
became coordinate or coeducational institutions, and those remaining 
found that they garnered far fewer of the talented students who had 
flocked to them in their heyday. 

"The secondary schools, like the colleges, are yielding to the de- 
mands of the times," wrote the Saturday Review in 1969. 11 But they 
yielded cautiously, with many a backward look. The late- Victorian 

412 THE F IN AL DECADE, I963-I973 

adolescent resurfaced in the National Review soon after Exeter ad- 
mitted girls, "unsure, preoccupied with [his] intense, chaotic sexu- 
ality." The slower maturing boy watched girls outshine him in grade 
point averages and verbal skills, and his rebelliousness flared; mean- 
while, because of his need for authoritative controls, his more trac- 
table female classmates suffered a disciplinary system inappropriate to 
their needs. 12 NAPSG members exchanged poignant accounts of the 
demonstrated advantages of all-girls' schools as they watched their 
single-sex membership shrink. In such schools, says Valeria Knapp of 
Winsor, "there was never any question of girls taking second place. If 
they've really run things as teenagers, why should they stop running 
things as adults?" 13 

New research seemed to back Knapp's experienced convictions. 
Psychologists were fascinated with Matina Horner's evidence that 
bright women in coeducational colleges were often hampered in com- 
petitive situations by an anxiety uncommon in males: a fear of the 
social and personal consequences of success, such as loss of femininity 
or rejection by friends. The researchers took Horner's projective tests 
to coeducational and all-girls' high schools and discovered a far higher 
proportion of girls possessed of this anxiety in the coeducational 
schools than in comparable single sex schools. 14 Other scholars did 
some counting and found that women who had attended all-female 
high schools or colleges were much more likely to have won doctor- 
ates, to have proven their competence as college teachers or adminis- 
trators, or even to have made "Who's Who in America." They noticed 
with interest the disproportionate number of women scientists and 
physicians who had graduated from Mt. Holyoke and Bryn Mawr. 15 
The studies confirmed what all feminists and some psychologists had 
believed for decades: social institutions must consciously take the 
path of most resistance if women are to become other than "a reflec- 
tion of a feminine image which men carry about in their heads." 16 Or, 
as Margaret Mead has put it, "The trouble with American women is 
too much coeducation." 17 

Finally, the women's liberation movement, born again in the late 
1960's, evoked young women's special need for strong female friend- 
ships and worthy female models in a society that sold heterosexual 
love like candy and refused to credit women's need to ground them- 
selves in self-respecting independence from men. A few feminist hero- 
ines such as M. Carey Thomas had long ago argued that true coeduca- 
tion was the ideal school for a world in which "men and women are 
to live and work together as comrades and dear friends and married 
friends and lovers." Unfortunately America considered women in- 


ferior; thus Thomas felt that true coeducation was impossible, and all- 
female schools and colleges must be sustained. 18 

Yet there was hope as well as cynicism in President Thomas' view, 
and many secondary educators seized on the hope as the sixties closed: 
might not America finally be ready for true coeducation? If so, then 
all the earlier bets were off— those bets based on the college success of 
graduates of all-girls' schools, on Ph.D. statistics, and on the sheer fun 
and personal satisfaction tens of thousands of young women had ex- 
perienced in single-sex schools. Dean Simeon Hyde of Phillips Acade- 
my stated this position in 1970: "As the roles of men and women be- 
come less differentiated, differentiated education loses its validity . . . 
The separation of the sexes in secondary boarding schools is a kind of 
hiatus in the normal process of growth ... at odds with the experience 
of all but a tiny minority of the American population, a status no 
longer supported by the concept of a special mode of education for 
a special class." 19 

Both Phillips and Abbot Academies had been founded and main- 
tained as separate institutions in response to particular cultural and eco- 
nomic circumstances. Now, if it was not yet entirely "a coed world," 
that new world was close enough so that a coed school might help to 
make it a reality. 

On the Hilltop 

Phillips Academy held the cards. The Abbot Trustees had effectively 
committed Abbot to some form of coeducation when they hired 
Donald Gordon in 1967. The Phillips Trustees balked at any such rash 
moves, but later the same year the Hilltop faculty followed the recom- 
mendation of its Steering Committee and voted to encourage shared 
social activities and "joint instruction" "with one or more neighboring 
girls' schools." 20 Though a few were dead set against further sex- 
mixing, and their voices would become louder as time went on, the 
traffic up and down Andover Hill warmed the hearts of Phillipians 
like Frederick Peterson, first dean of the coed Summer School; Simeon 
Hyde, Dean of the Faculty; and Alan Blackmer, Hyde's predecessor 
and Phillips' free-spirited elder statesman, who had been talking of 
coeducation for thirty years. A further, crasser impetus came from the 
Phillips' Admissions Office: Applications followed the general decline, 
with no sign of a reversal to match that which Abbot began to record 
after Gordon's arrival. The decline would become more alarming as 
St. Paul's, Taft, Northfield-Mt. Hermon, and Exeter became coedu- 

414 THE FIN AL DECADE, 1963-1973 

cational and an increasing number of boys turned down an Andover 
admission to accept one from Exeter. Mere resolves would no longer 
do; Phillips Andover girded itself to catch up with the times. Its 
faculty set to work with Abbot the spring of 1969 to plan the first 
experiments in "joint instruction." 

The planners already knew from the "coordinate education week" 
of inter-school class visiting in early 1969 that schedules frustrate the 
best intentions. School schedules are sacred things: Phillips and Abbot 
had purposely kept theirs distinct in order to separate male and female. 
Now Abbot teachers much preferred their flexible modular schedule 
to Phillips' fifty-three minute time-slots, and were loath to give it up. 
Though they soon sacrificed it for the cause, early coordination from 
1969-71 would remain minimal and largely one way— up the Hill. The 
experiment would expose the traps of the piecemeal approach: teach- 
ing overloads for Phillips Visual Studies teachers, keen disappointment 
on the part of those Phillips students who found themselves scheduled 
out of a long-anticipated Senior elective in favor of an Abbot Senior, 
the anxiety of the single female in a class full of males and vice versa, 
and the deepest trap of all— serious pedagogical disagreement between 
Abbot and Phillips departments over how to teach French, say, or 
whether to combine any classes at all. 21 

Still, these first two years of joint instruction raised some pioneers. 
The Art departments of the two schools moved first: they planned a 
group of complementary courses and opened them to Phillips and Ab- 
bot students alike. The Music and Modern Language departments fol- 
lowed suit. Early coordination proved that boys and girls could sit 
together in the same classroom and refrain from flirting— that they 
could even take Sex Education classes in stride, enjoying their raw 
humor along with their abundant factual information. (Jean Bennett 
does recall that the Hilltop administration drew the line at the boys 
being invited to a special lecture given by a homosexual, a respected 
physicist and college teacher. She says she did not endear herself to 
the Phillips brass by putting up announcements throughout the Phillips 
campus the night before the lecture was to take place.) 22 Altogether, 
fifty-six major courses and eighteen minors were open to both sexes 
in 1969-70. 

Given this taste of coeducation, most students wanted much more. 
Yet official negotiations dragged. Early in 1970 some of Phillips showed 
itself unwilling to wait longer. A faculty-student committee of the 
"Cooperative," Phillips' school government forum, recommended to 
the Coop "that P.A. not only press vigorously the development of co- 
ordination with Abbot Academy, but at the same time the Academy 


4 J 5 

It's a real turkey. 1 s*w it in our sex ed class! 

59. Sex Education, Illustrated. (Cartoon from a 1972 Sex Education Course 


accept in principle the enrollment of girls as diploma candidates." 
The Coop then drew up a faculty-student referendum on coordination 
the enrollment of girls in P.A. Student opinion was strongly in favor 
of both routes to coeducation. Faculty opinion was divided, but twice 
as many favored coordination as favored separate moves to coeduca- 
tion. After a restless month, the Phillips faculty voted to ask their 
Trustees "to investigate the question of coeducation and coordinate 
education." 23 In response, the Trustees issued the vaguest resolution 
conceivable: Phillips Academy might "after study, perhaps contribute 
to the education of young women." To the Abbot Trustees, already 
committed to educating young men, this looked timid indeed; but the 
Phillips Board followed up its vote with a directive to its Educational 
Policy Committee to "undertake a complete in-depth study of the 
needs and possibilities and future course, whether positive or negative, 
of either coordinate education or coeducation at Phillips Academy." 
The investigation was to be made "in collaboration with an appropri- 
ate committee of Abbot Academy," and would draw on such faculty 
and students as the Headmaster wished to designate. 24 By design, the 
Phillips Alumni Council was meeting the very same weekend; John 

41 6 THE FINAL DECADE, 1963-1973 

Kemper told the alumni of the Trustees' resolution, and invited Donald 
Gordon to present his own vision of the two schools under a single 
administration and board of trustees. Shortly afterward, a summer 
study committee was organized, including administrators from both 
schools. So began a full sixteen months of earnest study and planning— 
a period of hope, of imaginative moves toward the future— and at its 
close, of bitter disappointment for the advocates of merger. In spite of 
brave beginnings, no smooth path to coeducation was to be found 
where small groups of traditionalists and principled advocates of swift 
solutions held the two extremes, while the large number of Hilltop 
teachers in between shifted from one coalition to another. Vested in- 
terests swept some toward coeducation, others away; fears of disorder 
vied with the recognition that Phillips Academy's very survival might 
depend upon its willingness to change. Though all wanted the best for 
their schools, over two years would pass before Andover Hill could 
agree on what the best would be. 

Leaps of faith: 1970-197 1 

The key administrators from both schools met throughout July to de- 
cide how to move forward, and determined after long discussion that 
an early commitment to merger by both boards of Trustees was 
needed to undergird the enormous effort the two faculties must make 
to plan for a new school. They also set up three complementary 
Phillips- Abbot committees to start the work: A Curriculum Commit- 
tee, a committee to study school governance and community organiza- 
tion, and a committee on social life, later to be called the Boy-Girl 
Relations Committee. In time others would be added, including a com- 
mittee on Coordination of Athletic Programs. Early on, Simeon Hyde 
took intellectual leadership of the planning for Phillips, leaving John 
Kemper to ponder the political problems of how he might persuade a 
faculty of assertive individuals to come along. For years, a few Abbot 
Trustees had felt Kemper was stalling on coeducation. He was too 
much tied to the traditional Abbot, they thought, too imbued by his 
military past with the idea of women as— above all— wives or daughters 
whom men must protect, and quite unable to think of women as col- 
leagues. 25 But now Kemper quietly moved onto center stage in the 
plan-making. His long-time Abbot connections became crucial, and his 
caution gave essential reassurance to those Phillips faculty who still 
defended Phillips as a male bastion now and forever more. He had 


grown up on legends of his grandmother Mason, who refused to be 
left behind when her army doctor husband set out with his company 
on campaigns of Indian pacification; she bore her first child on one 
expedition. His mother (an Abbot graduate) and a favorite maiden 
aunt were equally powerful people. Some years after his first wife's 
death, Kemper married another special woman with a long career as 
teacher and dean behind her: Abby Castle, Abbot '31. His three 
daughters, one an Abbot alumna, had brought close the problems and 
joys of female education. Yet the decorous distance between Phillips 
and Abbot had been comfortable for him; a friend and Phillips alum- 
nus says he dreaded coeducation at first. "He told me so. He was suf- 
fering from some relative of the same syndrome as Miss Bailey." 26 In 
time, however, he moved. Kemper's style was to talk over a dilemma 
with anyone who would listen; to slowly, deliberately settle his own 
mind as to the wisdom of a given course of action; then, quietly and 
informally, to speak his case to others. Friends think he decided for an 
Abbot-Phillips merger during the 1970 summer conclave; from that 
time on, he worked to make it happen. 27 

Simeon Hyde, on the other hand, was a master of the position paper. 
His "Case for Coeducation," October 1970, was an intellectual's argu- 
ment based on historical and sociological analysis, but it also affirmed 
the validity of young people's dream of community in a time of social 
disintegration, a kind of "extended family, founded upon principles of 
love and respect for individual diversity." 28 He sensitively described 
how "used" and disillusioned the new Yale and Princeton women had 
felt as their position of "token females" became clear to them. By 
joining with Abbot, Phillips Academy could avoid pitfalls such as these. 

A merger, though full of difficulties, seems practical, ethical, and 
educationally sound. A true merger would bring to either partner 
the insight, experience, and resources of the other; and with no 
alteration of numbers, the combined school would have a better 
start toward an acceptable ratio of boys and girls and of men 
and women than would be possible at the beginning of any one 
school's solitary effort ... If Abbot and Phillips could together 
commit themselves to the development of a school in which boys 
and girls and men and women shared equally, they would be far 
ahead of other institutions striving to escape from the limitations 
of sexually segregated education. 29 

Hyde's "Case" hit the faculty mailboxes just after the Abbot and Phil- 
lips Trustee Subcommittees on Coeducation met jointly and agreed to 

418 THE FIN AL DECADE, 1963-I973 

recommend to their respective Boards that the two schools become 
one. Nearly everyone on Andover Hill expected that the Phillips 
Trustees would vote for merger during their fall meeting in 1970. 

Yet the majority of the Phillips Board refused merger. This was the 
first of three votes rejecting an Abbot-Phillips union. Old Phillips 
grads all, and Ivied over in college, they treasured their biases; but bias 
was not the whole story. They were legitimately fearful of the finan- 
cial consequences of merger— the more so given Abbot's enormous 
deficit for '69-70; they simply would not consider it without further 
study. They did commit themselves at last to Abbot Academy, voting 
"that Phillips Academy should be involved in the education of women, 
and [that it] should not do so independently but in close association 
with Abbot Academy." 30 Abbot's Trustees made a similar commitment 
to Phillips in their own fall meeting. So, somehow, Abbot and Phillips 
were to join forces. The question was, how? 

It seemed both fitting and practical for Philip Allen to be made Co- 
ordinator of the study and planning of coeducation since he was 
Trustee for both academies; fitting also for him to set up headquarters 
in Phillips' Graham House next door to where Sarah Abbot had once 
lived. He had his work cut out for him. The Abbot and Phillips Ad- 
mission Officers had never even met: Allen introduced them and many 
others, too. Plenty of Abbot-Phillips faculty threw themselves into 
their planning tasks however. The Abbot and Phillips Curriculum Com- 
mittees first convened in November while the student-faculty commit- 
tees on School/Community Organization started work in January of 
1 97 1. In spite of the Phillips Trustees' hesitations, these and their sub- 
groups still talked in terms of merger. Each committee held frequent, 
open meetings to keep in touch with teachers and students in both 
schools as they progressed. The Curriculum Committee, asking "What 
is the purpose of secondary education?" found itself engaged in an 
effort to define and prescribe for the future of American society. Its 
members exchanged extensive readings in the theory and practice of 
education; they solicited position papers from academic departments 
and exchanged memoranda until their notebooks bulged with ideas 
both intricate and grand. Meanwhile, the Abbot School/Community 
Organization group and the corresponding Phillips Committee almost 
immediately decided that their concerns were the same, and a tall 
order they were: 

Living arrangements 
Decision making 
Student organization 


Adult roles 

Social-cultural activities 

Individual rights 
Campus life 

Administrative structure 
Guidance, Counseling, Religion 
Off-Campus learning centers 

The Boy-Girl Relations Committee was building no Utopias. It talked 
over details of room visiting, the counseling of boys and girls who 
became "dangerously involved with one another, 1 ' the make-up of 
disciplinary committees, the need for more women teachers, and all 
the specifics of an environment that recognizes adolescents as sexual 
beings, yet also supports same-sex privacy where necessary and "dis- 
courages sexual license." 31 Academic departments in both schools also 
got into the act, charged by their administration to define the material 
and curricular issues at stake in a joint instructional program. A single 
new language lab, replied the Phillips Modern Language chairman; 
joint borrowing privileges in both libraries, replied the librarians. It 
was an exciting time, not least because key members of both faculties 
were discovering each other as persons and enjoying the process. Little 
by little, they replaced visions with plans for a new school in An- 
dover Hill. 

Deep Waters 

By Springtime, however, it was clear that nothing would be easy. The 
more progress was made by the busy planners, the more resistance 
coalesced among those men of the Hilltop who realized that the plan- 
ners were actually serious. A poll of the Phillips teachers taken in 
March 1971 showed many of them backing away from Abbot: only 
5 percent now hoped for full academic coordination. True, there was 
a sizable group (almost 40 percent) seeking a coeducational school, but 
asked how coeducation should be achieved, 63 percent preferred that 
Phillips take in its own girls rather than merge with Abbot. The re- 
sults testified to the complications that lay ahead for those who had 
not seen them coming in the stereotypes that were multiplying up and 
down the Hill. Abbot students had been "dumber," and "more emo- 
tional," for years, but a host of new Hilltop characterizations now fed 
on the few real excesses of the 1969-70 school year. Today's Abbot 

420 THE FINAL DECADE, 1963-I973 

girls were "spoiled" as well. All decent standards of dress and deport- 
ment having been abandoned, they had become "slobs"; they sang 
siren songs to the weaker, freakier Phillips boys, who fled to the 
Draper Hall corridors to escape the rigors of Hilltop life. Abbot teach- 
ers coddled math cripples; they accepted late papers and atrocious 
spelling; they sprawled on classroom floors and grooved with their 
students instead of teaching them; they solved communications prob- 
lems in "group-grope" sensitivity training sessions rather than submit 
with dignity to Roberts Rules; the older, more experienced women 
teachers were fast being outnumbered by pot-smoking, draft-dodging 
young men. 32 Abbot faculty returned the insults by grumbling in the 
shelter of their faculty room, and Abbot girls protested, occasionally 
in print. Cynosure's "Bertha B" advice column was the ideal medium: 

Dear Bertha B., 

I have a problem . . . 

He's all I ever wanted in a guy . . . The basic problem is that 
he's more interested in my body than my brains. He takes classes 
at my school because he thinks they're easier than those at his 
own school. But when I take classes at his school all he does is 
laugh . . . He thinks I'm stupid but I always end up doing his 
homework . . . Please help., 

Desperate. 33 

They and their teachers easily latched onto their own stereotypes of 
Phillips Academy. Phillips was business-like, cold, ruthlessly competi- 
tive, insensitive to student needs. The ideal Phillips boy was a hard- 
muscled automaton, who traveled between classroom and athletic field, 
head stuffed with outlines of Supreme Court cases. Much of Abbot be- 
lieved the story about the Phillips math teacher who (it was said) so 
hated girls that he got a stomachache whenever one appeared in his 
Summer School classroom, and students attached similar attributes to 
the Phillips faculty as a whole. 

Myths aside, there were real differences between the two schools, 
some of them hardened over a century of separation; further, there 
were special stresses on the Hilltop peculiar to the 1970-71 school year 
which complicated the existing confusions about coeducation. Phillips 
was three times the size of Abbot. It could not help being less per- 
sonal, more bureaucratized, more prone to "institutional inertia." 34 Its 
central Discipline Committee brought formal procedures in cases simi- 
lar to those which Abbot's house parents and dorm representatives re- 
solved themselves. Faculty moguls sat for years on the Phillips Com- 
mittee dealing out swift chastisement and often recommending dis- 


missal for first-time offenders, while Abbot's elected student Honor 
Board would agonize for hours searching for appropriate individual 
punishments before advising probation. Time and again the Honor 
Board gave a second or third probation in hope that a girl could pull 
herself together after all— and often enough she did, with massive help 
from friends and faculty. 35 A determined girl could win an exception 
to the rules for almost any reasonable request, or could choose a dorm 
known for its laissez-faire atmosphere, like Cutler House, where for at 
least a year, none of the residents even realized that those Phillips boys 
in and out of the Common Room all day weren't supposed to be there. 
(To be fair, a few dorms up the Hill were much the same.) 36 Or she 
could sit back and take a Sherman House letter-writer's advice: "J ust 
take it easy. ... If you're smart, you will find that most everything is 
permitted." 37 

Abbot had all but given up trying to prohibit smoking; Phillips 
boys smoked often but illegally. Phillips had late afternoon and Satur- 
day classes, while Abbot weekends began at 3:30 on Friday afternoon. 
There were genuine differences in the two schools' approaches to 
teaching and departmental organization, all of which would have to be 
resolved, even if the Trustees stopped short of merger and settled for 
joint instruction. The same was true of dorm life, which was supervised 
by teacher-housemasters on the Hilltop and by the full-time resident ad- 
visers at Abbot. "Abbot took House-counseling far more seriously than 
Phillips does," says one woman who has run a dormitory in both 
schools. On the other hand athletics were central to Hilltop life. Down 
the Hill, now that ballet was no longer required for ninth graders, 
sports and dance periods were half the length and twice the fun for most. 
"You could play basketball because you liked it," says one alumna, 
"the average height of the team was 5' 6". We lost every single game." 38 
A few Abbot students roundly protested any competitive sports pro- 
gram for girls, insisting that life was now so rich on Andover Hill that 
such outlets were no longer needed. 39 One other stereotype was large- 
ly accurate: many Phillips boys did escape to Abbot as they were 
accused of doing. But it was not just to breathe in the smoke from the 
Abbot Seniors' cigarettes. "What makes Abbot so much better than 
the conventional girls' boarding school?" a Phillips swain queried. 
"One of the extended attractions for P.A. people is that those down 
here are human and enjoy it." 40 

A "human" community was desperately wanted by many of the 
Hilltop residents. Historian Frederick Allis testifies that the years 1971 
and early 1972 were the most difficult in the history of Phillips Acade- 
my. Student frustration over the war, the draft, and the pace of 

4 2 2 

THE FINAL DECADE, 1963-1973 

60. The butt room. 

change on Andover Hill reached a peak; two years of protests and 
Memorial Day fracases seemed to have accomplished nothing, and a 
large minority were now embittered, ready to back rebellious student 
leaders, ready, even, to participate in senseless, capricious acts of van- 
dalism that appalled the adults. 41 There was a species of hope in some 
teachers' growing sympathy for the antiwar cause, but this solidarity 
bred complications too, for it intensified already serious splits within 
the Phillips faculty. 42 A pro-Abbot faction developed out of those 
who admired Abbot's response to the confusions of the age and to 
student desire for authentic communication with adults, and an anti- 
Abbot faction sprang up to oppose it. A large middle group cast about 
for new directions. The Phillips Seniors would put a seal on their own 
discontent in June 1971, when nearly two thirds of the class signed a 
statement expressing their "lack of confidence in the administration 
and faculty of Phillips Academy." Many faculty were at a loss how to 
cope with the impasse. 

They were all the more anxious because John Kemper had become 
seriously ill with lung cancer. When the one person who could talk 
with everyone dropped out for an operation and convalescence, a few 
Phillips teachers simply stopped speaking to one another. It was the 
worst possible time to arrive at conclusions about the complex issues 
raised by the prospect of coeducation. Yet discussions were held, some 
of them involving every Abbot and Phillips teacher and 150 Abbot- 


Phillips students as well. The Community Organization group made 
one of the most attractive proposals: that Phillips' experimental system 
of self-governing residential "clusters"— about 180 students and twenty- 
five faculty each— be extended to the new 1200-student school that 
would result from merger, in order to give all students the kind of 
home base that Abbot students valued so much. The Abbot-Phillips 
Curriculum Committees were searching the literature of learning theo- 
ry and discovering how difficult it was to find any solid rationale for 
the course requirements that had been traditional to Andover Hill. 
They were preparing a bombshell: the recommendation that students 
be allowed to design their own course of study according to their own 
interests and college plans. All the planners began to assume eventual 
merger as they made their way through the tangle of basic educational 
questions. Dean John Richards II found himself telling West-coast 
alumni forums that coeducation was the least difficult of all the de- 
cisions facing Phillips Academy. The ferment only heightened anxiety 
on the Hilltop, however, for most of Phillips was stunned by events, 
rudderless in spite of Simeon Hyde's able leadership as Acting Head- 
master during Kemper's absence. Hyde's open commitment to merger 
with Abbot set the hold-outs against him as they had never stood 
against Kemper. It seemed impossible to move ahead, easier far to do 

Just before he went to the hospital, Kemper had invited the anti- 
coeducation minority to speak their case. They did, and forcefully, 
through Mathematics Chairman Richard Pieters, who argued in March 
that girls would seriously distract boys from Phillips' heavy academic 
demands. The decline in applications may be a result of "concessions 
we have already made" to prevailing fads, wrote Pieters. The sexual 
"immorality" and "precocity" in the larger society only confirmed 
the wisdom of single-sex education: "the stormy emotions of adoles- 
cence need restraint, not stimulation." If anything, Andover should be 
working to retard the erosion of "the natural distinctions between 
men and women." Pieters' last plaintive question suggests a conviction 
that sexual distinctions included intellectual ones: Even if Phillips 
were to put Abbot aside and create an independent, coeducational 
Phillips Academy, "Where are we to find the 300 or 400 qualified girls 
for a coed school of the quality we want?" 43 

The division within the Phillips faculty was just what the antimerger 
members of the Phillips Board needed. Considering merger for the 
second time at their spring meeting, they looked at Abbot's continu- 
ing (though diminishing) deficit and at the Phillips 1970-71 deficit of 
$165,000; at the financial consequences of stretching the Phillips en- 
























S B 



C i» 







Q- (X 








3 rt 

c .g 



























dowment over 1200 students (it would mean raising Phillips tuition at 
least $600); and at the "decision tree," which their financial consultants 
had provided. Even this simplified "tree" made Phillips Academy's 
problem clear: like most rich white males of the time, Phillips had 
too many options. Choice seemed impossible: this great boys' prepara- 
tory school was Absalom, suspended in mid-air from its decision tree. 
The Trustees voted to stay suspended, determining that "financial 
considerations make a merger with Abbot impractical at this time." 44 

Issues Joined and Unjoined: Summer, 197 1 

Once more a summer group of administrators convened at both 
Boards' behest: for Abbot, Gordon, Goodwin, Johnston, and Sheahan; 
for Phillips, Kemper, Hyde, Richards, and Frederick Stott. They were 
to meet under the chairmanship of Philip Allen, "double agent," 45 to 
clarify all the issues and devise a workable scheme for long-term 
coordination. Allen had tried to persuade his fellow Phillips Trustees 
of what his fellow Abbot Trustees had already accepted: that merger 
offered both schools the best chance of survival in a new age. How- 
ever, he strove as hard as anyone that summer to design a coordinated 
academic program that would overcome the two schools' philosophical 
differences and would avoid duplications and inequities. The latter 
seemed almost inevitable, given the disparities in size and economic 
power. The budgets in hand for the 1971-72 school year made these 
disparities all too clear. 

The summer group decided it couldn't be done: coordination was 
neither a practical nor a desirable arrangement for the long future. 
You could have a single dean, you could even (God help you) try to 
combine Abbot and Phillips academic departments and equalize teach- 
ing loads, but the wide differences in teachers' salaries and in resources 
available for male and female students would remain, grating all the 
more as teachers' responsibilities approached parity. And who would 
hire whom? How would the two schools calibrate the relationship be- 
tween students' out-of-class lives and their academic work? Was it fair 
to hold all students to common academic standards when they entered 
through two different admissions offices? 

Now that Abbot had abandoned its age-old policy of charging 
minimal tuition (to balance its budget, Abbot's tuition had to be $4100, 
or half the income of the average American family), the disparities 
between the tuition bills issued to the males and the females of An- 
dover Hill looked grossly discriminatory. Finally, there was the num- 


THE FINAL DECADE, 1963-1973 

Table i. 
Budgets and Resources, Abbot and Phillips Academies, 1971-1972 

Abbot Academy, 

Phillips Academy, 

316 Students 

904 Students 

Per Student Total 

Per Student Total 

Tuition income 

$4,100 $1,230,000 

$2,700 $ 2,490,000 

($2,400 day) 

($2,100 day) 

Endowment income 









Total income 



and expense 

Operating Deficit 


Market value of Endowment 

June 1 97 1 



June 1972* 



Median teacher salary 

( 1 ) for dormitory faculty 

(2) for nondormitory 

Size of campus, plus 
other acreage owned 
Market value of campus 
acreage, plus all buildings 

(Abbot only) Total 

value, plant and 


(6/72 figures for 
replacement value) 

(Phillips only) Total 

value of plant 

(6/72, estimate of re- 
placement value. No 
equipment figures 

$8, 1 00.00 


not provided 

(though apartments 

were made available 

at a reasonable rent) 

45 acres 



1 1, 1 00,000— 
1,900,000 (est.) 


600 acres 


*Phillips endowment had risen 18 percent in value between June 1971 and 
June 1972, while Abbot's rose 33 percent. 


bers problem. The conservative members of the Phillips Board found 
coordination attractive because it preserved 825 Hilltop beds for boys, 
yet the Abbot-Phillips planning committees were convinced that an 
equal number of boys and girls was a precondition for a natural com- 
munity. How could two coordinate schools move toward such equality? 

Ultimately, the group decided, the only arguments for coordination 
were economic ones that favored Phillips Academy: the closer the two 
schools drew under a coordinate arrangement, the more Phillips' raw 
power would be felt by the smaller one. Abbot would be dismantled, 
piece by piece, and would lose its chance to deal from its unique 
strengths in helping create a new totality. 46 As a weary Kemper wrote 
his Trustees, the choice for Phillips was now clear: a commitment to 
merge with Abbot as soon as financial and legal difficulties could be 
resolved, or a determination to pull away from Abbot altogether, re- 
maining a boys' school or becoming coeducational on its own. 47 

In September 1971 the Phillips faculty were asked to make a choice 
between these alternatives. Now Richard Pieters, acknowledging that 
some form of coeducation was inevitable, took leadership of the anti- 
merger group and introduced his own motion on September 28 for 
gradual, independent coeducation within Phillips Academy. Given the 
majority that had favored independent coeducation the spring before, 
the resolution seemed likely to pass. 

John Kemper was ill the night Pieters' motion was scheduled for 
faculty action, so the discussion was deferred. A few days later, real- 
izing that his health was broken, Kemper submitted his resignation. 
But he had one last thing to say to the faculty at his final meeting with 
them on October 12: reject the Pieters motion and go through with 
the Abbot-Phillips merger. All feasible alternatives denied the two 
schools' historical ties and obligations to each other. Abbot's plant and 
equipment were valuable, he argued; its experience in educating girls 
was priceless. At the least, the new headmaster, whoever he is, must 
have a say in the matter. The faculty voted to table the Pieters resolu- 
tion, and Pieters withdrew his motion. 

Two weeks later, the Phillips Trustees met in gloom and uncertainty 
to make their final decision for or against merger. Kemper's plea 
haunted them, but who now would lead the school to carry it out? 
Philip Allen spoke for merger, but he was the double agent. The three 
Alumni Trustees finally persuaded the assembly not to adjourn before 
it had listened to their arguments for merger, but they could not vote. 
Allen left the meeting to fling away his own frustrations and to free 
up discussion. The Trustees couldn't say yes to Abbot, but they 
couldn't bring themselves to say no either. The alternative was limbo. 

428 THE FIN AL DECADE, 1963-1973 

The Phillips Board "voted that a merger at this time or in the foresee- 
able future would not be in the best interests of Phillips Academy"; 
they resolved to go on with coordination, and to enter limbo. 48 


"That was the year we put the whole merger thing in mothballs," says 
Carolyn Goodwin. But teachers and students returning to Abbot in 
September 197 1 found so much novelty and promise in the Abbot- 
Phillips academic program that ultimate questions of the two acade- 
mies' future receded before present urgencies. There was much to do. 
One hundred courses invited cross-enrollment, forty at Abbot, sixty at 
Phillips. The Phillips- Abbot Art departments, experienced in coordina- 
tion, offered a richer program than ever before. The Music and Mod- 
ern Language departments had combined forces in planning all their 
courses, and the hard-working Summer Coordinating Committee had 
put on the finishing touches. Now Abbot girls might take Italian as 
they had done in the 1830's. Abbot's Modern Language Chairman, 
Georges Krivobok could teach French, German, and Russian with 
equal ease; Phillips was glad to have his skills and those of others to 
enrich its own program. The students voted for joint classes with their 
feet: 193 girls enrolled in 302 courses at Phillips, and 327 boys entered 
376 courses down the Hill. 

"Carolyn Goodwin was the effective implementor of coordination 
at Abbot," says Simeon Hyde. 49 Imperturbable, she led teachers through 
the intricate mechanics of academic coordination: report forms and 
deadlines, a number-grading system from o to 6 which Phillips had 
initiated two years before, and a trimester system, new to both schools, 
which made possible a blizzard of ten-week electives. 

Abbot had to give up its penchant for dropping everything now 
and then and devoting a whole school day to some urgent public issue 
or school government need. Both schools did some adjusting, planning 
complementary offerings and adapting work schedules to allow for 
joint department meetings. Members of the three fully coordinated de- 
partments proved that friction and distrust between the two faculties 
could be overcome— and also demonstrated the imbalances built into 
every joint planning effort. Abbot teachers were not merely out- 
numbered. Departmental organization had never been a formal affair 
at the smaller school. "When does the English Department meet?" a 
novice teacher remembers asking Alice Sweeney. "Oh, whenever you 
and I happen to see each other in the book closet," was the reply. 


Outside the pioneer departments, most coordinate courses were open 
only at the nth and 12th grade level. They included, however, a 
wealth of Advanced Placement courses and Senior electives, especially 
in science. 

It was a heady beginning. Abbot student pioneers probably exagger- 
ated the stares and sneers they got from Hilltop skeptics, but there 
was no doubt that coordinating a course sometimes took guts. What a 
relief to come bac